Texas Senator Who's Experienced Some Press Criticism Introduces Bill To Gut State's Anti-SLAPP Law

from the fixer-here-with-the-fixes dept

Everything’s bigger in Texas. Even the free speech protections. Texas has one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation. These protections against bogus, speech-chilling lawsuits are so big they even covered a US President who complained libel laws in America were too restrictive, resulting in a swift dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought against him over a fairly innocuous, if invective-loaded, tweet.

Some Texas legislators like the bigness of their home state, but not so much the anti-SLAPP law that deters bogus lawsuits filed to silence critics. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brings news that a bill that would gut a substantial amount of Texas’ anti-SLAPP protections has been introduced into the state Senate.

House Bill 2730 and SB 2162 would allow the entity accused of filing a meritless lawsuit to drop their case just days before a hearing. This effectively allows an entity to sue a media company for defamation, receive a hearing date, and then drop the lawsuit days before a hearing to avoid a bad ruling and the cost of the defendant’s legal fees.

The bills would also remove clearly articulated categories of protected speech relating to matters of public concern from the Texas anti-SLAPP law. The legislation drops the definitions of those categories of public speech and deletes anti-SLAPP protections for communications between parties on matters of public concern.

In addition, the bill would weaken protections for anonymous parties by exempting online commenters from the law’s anti-SLAPP protections, and would give defendants only three days to file an anti-SLAPP motion when hit with a defamation lawsuit.

Why would legislation like this be needed? There’s no good answer. And by that, I mean anyone agitating for an increase in baseless lawsuits is up to no good. I’m sure there’s a certain number of people with power or connections to power who are irritated they simply can’t threaten critics into silence with a strong anti-SLAPP law in place. Getting their bluff called by defendants now costs them money and that’s an unacceptable outcome.

It could be Angela Paxton — the senator who introduced the bill — finds it too difficult to target her critics under the current law. The rookie legislator is also the wife of state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Angela Paxton has only been in office since January 8 of this year and she’s already generated a ton of negative press, thanks to her initial legislative effort which seemed crafted specifically to ease her husband’s legal woes.

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment adviser” without registering with the state board. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas — one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.

I’m not saying Paxton wants to start silencing her critics. But I’m not not saying that either. Her excuse for the husband-pardoning bill was that her constituents in the tech-heavy sector of Texas were looking for easing of restrictive regulations. So far, she hasn’t made a similar statement about her constituents in Richardson suddenly developing concerns about Texas’ anti-SLAPP restricting their restrictions of speech. All anyone can do it speculate about her motivations while being mesmerized by the new senator’s blase approach to bad optics.

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Comments on “Texas Senator Who's Experienced Some Press Criticism Introduces Bill To Gut State's Anti-SLAPP Law”

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20 Comments
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Free speech and all, but...

Since you have read the bill, and I admittedly don’t have the time wading through the entiremarked up law to find the way this would impact Truth in Advertising laws, could you perhaps explain the change the law makes which makes you feel the primary effect would be to undermine those laws in a manner that is a shot across the bow of the FTC? It’s an interesting claim, and I’d love to know where to look to see that effect.

Ed Itorial (by you know who) says:

Same old comments on same old trivia that hasn't yet happened.

Don’t you guys EVER get tired of one-liner snark on local topics that matter very little even if were passed into law?

And "Gary" sez: Hey, get your own web-site, Ed.

No, you’ve missed the main feature of teh internets, "Gary".

First, Masnick pays for the site on assumption that he can get a return from it: that’s a business.

He puts out his ideas.

Masnick takes the "risk" (very little, actually, and for long time, he liked the return).

But the deal in Section 230 is that he’s immune from liability for comments that me and rest of The Public make.

The Public gets to leverage a wider audience for our views off his investment. That’s why we allow businesses, for OUR benefit.

And it should be a money-maker, IS for many sites.

Now, here’s the purpose of Section 230, the synergy of business and Public: Masnick gets his notions tested in The Public’s Marketplace with quick responses. That should be of value to him. — And he shouldn’t bother to put out his notions if afraid of the responses!

But instead, Techdirt has to censor, I mean "hide", even mild dissent.

That’s what’s broken with Techdirt specifiically, and nearly all of teh internets too. It’s supposed to allow NEW and MORE communication, but turns out that every crank and corporation regards it as one-way propaganda by which to get mere money and power.

That’s Tim Berner-Lee’s view, too, I believe. — Oh, and probably Axel Voss’s: the present rules are allowing thefts and chaos, but aren’t allowing creators to profit, nor reasonable discussion. It’s just all going to hell — and Masnick doesn’t mind because thinks he’s one of the elite in control.

It’d be vastly more interesting if Techdirt covered T B-L’s recent complaints (again) instead of this trivial crap. With the same little clique of fanboys who "hide" any and every disagreeing comment.


Now, the meta view here is that I just wrote up a MUCH MORE interesting and important topic. But do I get any thanks? Hell, no! Masnick will suppress this as has THOUSANDS of my comments.

After 20 years, Masnick doesn’t know what the "Step 2" on teh internets is except for "??????".

That One Guy (profile) says:

Telling company they seem to keep

House Bill 2730 and SB 2162 would allow the entity accused of filing a meritless lawsuit to drop their case just days before a hearing. This effectively allows an entity to sue a media company for defamation, receive a hearing date, and then drop the lawsuit days before a hearing to avoid a bad ruling and the cost of the defendant’s legal fees.

So they want to modify a law meant to prevent abuse of the law and punish those that do, by explicitly legalizing a favorite tactic of copyright/patent extortionists?

Yeah, there is no way to read their actions here as anything other than boneheaded and gullible(if someone else is merely pulling their strings) or outright malicious, attempting to protect those that abuse the legal system for personal gain and/or to go after people that say mean things about them.

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