You know how our City Government doesn’t like to be bothered by the citizens at their meetings.
Well, now they have to.
Meet House Bill 2840, which became law last month.
Simply, the law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, requires all government meetings (city councils, county commissions, school boards, hospital districts, public colleges) to open up their meetings to public comments in a much bigger way.
Now most governments schedule a “Persons to be Heard” segment, where you sign up to speak at the beginning or, worse, at the tail end.
Some governments across the state don’t allow members of the public to speak at all.
Until now, allowing the public to speak was not mandatory under law. Now it is.
Under the new law, a person can speak to a government body at the start of the meeting, at the end, and most important, before a vote on every listed agenda item.
This is unheard of. Previously, most governments allowed comments at some point, but only rarely did leaders let the public speak on individual agenda items during their deliberations.
Usually, they only allowed such comments when public hearings are required by law.
This is huge. If you want to talk on Items 1, 4, 6 and 9 on the agenda, just raise your hand. Governments can’t stop you.
Imagine being a participant in the discussion, instead of just a witness to a vote that was decided behind closed doors.
The mayor’s not going to like this.
I, on the other hand, am thrilled.
I like the idea. Maybe we’ll see just a tad more openness locally.
Wow, this is fabulous! Can it be true that we don’t have to sign up in advance? Can each Council make their own rules for speaking beyond this law? Does this apply to public comment at appointed boards and commissions also – just raise your hand? Does it apply to the Council special meetings or work sessions? Mayor Margo often emphasized that “we don’t have to let you speak, this public comment period is a privilege” and he wanted to limit the number of people to speak pro or con on any one item and wanted to cut the time allowed to one minute if there were more than 30 people who wanted to comment on one item. On complicated issues it requires more than three minutes for one person to discuss the salient points. Are we still limited to 3 minutes? I will check the law and see what it says. Thanks so much for bring this to our attention.