House Passes Bill To Allow Public Comment At Government Meetings In Tennessee

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.


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