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C. Can a public body limit comment?

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  • Alabama

    We know of no law allowing or prohibiting a public body from limiting comment.

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  • Alaska

    Those bodies covered by the municipal code provisions guaranteeing a right of participation are afforded only a "reasonable" right to be heard, implicitly subject to reasonable rules of the body or rulings of the chair.

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  • Arizona

    Yes.  A public body may limit public comment during an open call by imposing reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.  See A.R.S. §38-431.01(H).  “Although it is legally appropriate to stop a speaker who is reasonably perceived as threatening, disorderly, or impeding the fair progress of discussion, public bodies must be cautious not to halt a speaker because of the speaker’s viewpoint.”  Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. No. I99-006.

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  • Arkansas

    Whenever a citizen has a statutory right to participate in a meeting, the agency can establish local rules regarding comments, as long as the citizen has a reasonable opportunity to participate. See Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 93-299. For example, an agency can limit participation to only a specific time period during the meeting. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 93-052. An agency would violate the FOIA if the circumstances for public participation would allow for only “uninformed” comments. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 95-230 (discussing complex contracts made with private contractors).

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  • California

    Under the Bagley-Keene Act, a body does not have to listen to comments on matters that are not on the agenda or that were already considered in a public meeting where there was an opportunity to comment. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11125.7(a).

    Under the Brown Act, the public is entitled to comment on any matter within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body, as well as any agenda item.  Cal. Gov’t Code § 54954.3(a).  See Galbiso v. Orosi Public Utility Dist., 167 Cal. App. 4th 1063, 1080, 84 Cal. Rptr. 3d 788 (2008). Thus, under the Brown Act, the legislative body does not have to listen to comments on items that are not within its subject matter jurisdiction. 78 Ops. Cal. Att'y Gen. 224 (1995). And, as under the Bagley-Keene Act, a legislative body under the Brown Act does not have to listen to comments on items that were already considered in a public meeting where there was an opportunity to comment. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54954.3(a).

    In addition, under both Acts, the body may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the above provisions are carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated to each individual speaker for public testimony or comment on particular issues. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11125.7(b) (Bagley-Keene Act); 54954.3(b) (Brown Act). A legislative body of a local agency may regulate the time, place and manner for speech to ensure orderly discussion. Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified Sch. Dist., 936 F. Supp. 719 (C.D. Cal. 1996) (Brown Act).

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  • Colorado

    No provision in the Open Meetings Law addresses this issue.

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  • Connecticut

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Delaware

    Yes, so long as such restrictions are not content based.

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    Georgia county commissions and city councils and like bodies, e.g., school boards, typically have rules affording a limited right of public comment at meetings. See, e.g., Cardinale v. City of Atlanta, 290 Ga. 521, 522, 722 S.E.2d 732, 734 (2012) (noting the existence of rules governing public comment at Atlanta city council meetings). The state’s Open Meetings Act does not address the issue of public comment.

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  • Hawaii

    Boards may provide for reasonable administration or oral testimony by rule. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-3 (2005).

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  • Idaho

    The Open Meeting Law does not specifically address this question. Idaho governing bodies generally try to impose time limits on comments, however.

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  • Illinois

    Many public bodies limit the number of speakers on an issue, or limit each speaker to 5 or 10 minutes.

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  • Indiana

    Yes, because the law does not provide a right to comment.

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  • Kansas

    There is no statutory right to comment.

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  • Kentucky

    No provision in the Open Meetings Act deals with public comments at meetings. Generally, a public agency that allows comments from members of the public may limit the duration of such comments and may require comments to pertain to the issues addressed in the meetings. However, limiting comments based upon viewpoint of the commenter would run the risk of violating the First Amendment.

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  • Louisiana

    Only as may be specified by a public body's reasonable rules and regulations and to prevent "willful disruption" that would "seriously compromise" the "orderly conduct" of a meeting.

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  • Maine

    Many public bodies set time limits for public comment, but those limits are usually flexible (within reason).

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  • Montana

    Public bodies in Montana sometimes limit comments on an ad hoc basis depending on the number of people who wish to speak on an issue. There are no cases addressing the reasonableness of such limitations.

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  • Nebraska

    Presumably, a public body can limit comment if the public body determines that this is a reasonable rule or regulation regarding the meeting. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1412(2).

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  • Nevada

    C. Can a public body limit comment?

    The Attorney General has opined that a public body may create reasonable rules and regulations regarding written remarks of members of the public. The rules and regulations may not discourage public comment. Nevada Op. Att'y Gen. 2005-08. The Attorney General believes that limits must be viewpoint neutral.

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  • New Jersey

    Yes.  N.J.S.A. 10:4-12(a) specifically states that “Nothing in this act shall be construed to limit the discretion of a public body to … regulate the active participation of the public at any meeting.”

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  • North Carolina

    There is no provision in the Open Meetings Law. Each statute providing a right of public comment has its own provisions. See Section V.A. above. The public comment provisions for city, county and school boards permit the bodies to adopt reasonable rules regarding the time allowed per speaker, the designation of spokesmen for groups of people taking the same position, and providing for the maintenance of decorum.

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  • Ohio

    There is no statutory or case law addressing this issue (not applicable).

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  • Oklahoma

    When a public body voluntarily establishes an open forum, then any content-based restriction must be narrowly drawn to effectuate a compelling governmental interest, applying principles contained in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. 1998 OK AG 45. A public body may, however, limit public comment to items listed on the agenda. If no limits are placed on the subject matter of public comment, then an agenda item for "public comments" is sufficient notice that citizens may speak on any issue. 2002 OK AG 26.

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  • Oregon

    Yes, reasonable time limits and opportunities can be established.

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  • Pennsylvania

    If it finds that there is “not sufficient time,” it may defer such comment. One court suggested that comment should be limited to “current business” and not the over-broad standard of “matters of concern” that “may” come before an agency. See Baravordeh v. Borough Council of Prospect Park, 706 A.2d 362 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1998).

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  • Rhode Island

    Presumably not. However, the OML allows the removal of any person who willfully disrupts a meeting to the extent that orderly conduct of the meeting is seriously compromised.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-5(d).

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  • South Carolina

    Yes, so long as the limitation is content-neutral e.g., the imposition of a time limit. A content-specific restriction would likely constitute unconstitutional prior restraint.

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  • Texas

    A governmental body may limit comment since there is no right to comment at open public meetings. See Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. JC-0169 (2000). If a governmental body wishes to allow members of the public to speak at its public meetings, it may adopt reasonable rules consistent with relevant provisions of law allowing them to do so. Id. (citing Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. H-188 (1973); Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. LO-96-111 (1996)).

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  • Vermont

    There is a public right to a “reasonable opportunity” to comment and “express opinion” on any matter under consideration at an open meeting, “as long as order is maintained” and “subject to reasonable rules established by the chairperson.” 1 V.S.A. § 312(h). One of the limitations frequently implemented by the chair of the board is a limitation on the amount of time for each speaker.  The right to comment does not apply to any quasi-judicial proceeding. Id.

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  • West Virginia

    A governing body "may make and enforce reasonable rules for attendance and presentation at any meeting," but this power is limited to "any meeting where there is not enough room for all members of the public who wish to attend." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-3.

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  • Wisconsin

    A public body may limit comment.

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