Lack of quorum stymies social media bill

Ryan Nelsen | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—Sen. Jay Morris, a Republican from West Monroe, attempted to pass a social media regulation bill through the House Commerce Committee Thursday, but his attempt ended before it began.

           “Six members, we don’t have a quorum,” said Allie King, the committee’s administrative assistant, after calling attendance for the 16-person committee.

           “I’m shocked that there is not a quorum here today,” said Morris. “And it doesn’t look like I’m going to get a vote on this very important bill.” 

           The bill, which would have allowed users to sue companies like Facebook and Google if their posts were blocked, can no longer move forward in any capacity. Morris trudged forward and gave his prepared opening statement to the five Republican committee members and one Democrat who were present.

Seven Republicans and three Democrats were absent.

The bill would have allowed social media users to seek up to $75,000 in court if their religious or political posts were knowingly deleted or censored by a website.

           “The means by which information is being distributed in this nation, and Louisiana, is going through a small handful of companies who decide what we should be able to see,” said Morris.

           Conservatives have been upset with social media companies for some time, and their complaints escalated when Twitter and Facebook suspended President Donald Trump’s posts after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

Morris said social media sites had deleted or censored posts about COVID-19 being started in a Chinese lab until President Joe Biden took office. Now, Morris said, “the powers that be decided it was okay to theorize that.” 

           Morris’ bill had passed in the Senate 37-0. 

Morris later told the Gannett newspapers that he was “very suspicious” about the lack of a quorum. He attributed it to the power of the social media companies.

Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, the committee chairwoman, said that the hearing was just scheduled Wednesday and suggested that could have been the reason for the absences.

  But Morris said he had talked to most of the members on Wednesday about the hearing.