House Passes Bill To Allow Public Comment At Government Meetings In Tennessee
Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
A bill that would require that a time for public comment be allowed at state governmental meetings passed the Tennessee House and is ready for transmission to the Senate.
House Bill 0448 (HB0448), as introduced, “requires governmental entities to provide a period of public comment for public meetings; authorizes the governmental entities to place reasonable restrictions on the period for public comment.”
The bill, sponsored by Representative Elaine Davis (R-Knoxville- District 18) would require government bodies to set aside an allotted amount of time at each public meeting “to allow comment on matters that are germane to the items on the agenda for that meeting.”
It was amended to state that the right to public comment would not be applicable when a meeting was held to conduct discipline against a member of the governing body or when no actionable items were up for discussion.
During the House Floor Session, Representative Jason Powell (D-Nashville-District 53) asked if there was any concern that the legislation would actually limit citizen participation or allow for unequal representation on contentious issues.
Davis replied that the allowance of reasonable restrictions allowed the government entities to maintain order but also states that governing bodies should allow opposing viewpoints to be represented fairly.
Representative G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis-District 93) asked if the requirement that actionable items be on the agenda meant only meetings where votes were being taken or if it included those where actions were just being discussed.
Davis noted that the intention was “to ensure that citizen voices are heard” and that government entities should allow for those times of debate prior to voting.
In the end, the bill passed with 82 ayes and 6 nays. Those voting against the bill were Representatives Bill Beck (D-Nashville-District 51), John Clemmons (D-Nashville-District 55), Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga-District 28), Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville-District 90), Justin Jones (D-Nashville-District 52), and Powell.
The Senate companion bill (SB0551) has been placed on the Senate State and Local Government Committee calendar for March 28.
Anyone wishing to support this bill is encouraged to contact the members of that committee using the contact information below:
Senate State and Local Government Committee
Sen. Richard Briggs (R) (Chair) – firstname.lastname@example.org – (615) 741-1766
Sen. Page Walley (R) (Vice-Chair) – email@example.com – (615) 741-2368
Sen. Mark Pody (R) (2nd Vice-Chair) – firstname.lastname@example.org – (615) 741-2421
Sen. Ed Jackson (R) – email@example.com – (615) 741-1810
Sen. Sara Kyle (D) – firstname.lastname@example.org – (615) 741-4167
Sen. Adam Lowe (R) – email@example.com – (615) 741-1946
Sen. John Stevens (R) – firstname.lastname@example.org – (615) 741-4576
Sen. Ken Yager (R) – email@example.com – (615) 741-1449
Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D) – firstname.lastname@example.org – (615) 741-3291
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com
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