Right to speak at public meetings

500-SPEAK-PUBLIC-MEETINGThe full Senate could take a vote as early as next week on a measure aimed at ensuring that members of the public have a right to speak before local governing boards, such as city councils, county commissions, school boards, taxing districts or other local governments.

Currently, there’s no statutory right to speak, even though the law says such meetings must be open.

“We’ve had taxing authorities that actually have denied people the right to speak on how they spend their monies,” said the sponsor, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. “You can’t invite the public to come to something and then say — thank you for coming but we don’t want to hear from you.”

The measure (SB 50) has exemptions for quasi-judicial meetings, or parts of meetings, and would allow restrictions on the number of speakers or time for hearing from citizens and other decorum-related restrictions. The bill wouldn’t apply to legislative committees.

The bill was put in a position yesterday for a final vote as early as next Tuesday. It would still need House approval.

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