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V. Asserting a right to comment

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  • Arizona

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Arkansas

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Colorado

    The meetings act does not address this issue.

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  • Connecticut

    FOIA does not provide any right for public comment or public participation at a meeting of a public agency. Instead, FOIA provides a right of access to watch and listen to a meeting of a public agency.

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  • District of Columbia

    The Open Meetings Act does not address a right to comment during public meetings.

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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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  • Iowa

    Prior to making certain final decisions and final approvals on proposed charters, Iowa statutes require public comment in some cases. See, e.g., Iowa Code §  31.235(2) and § 457B.1.

    However, generally, the Open Meetings Act does not require the government to allow any individual or group to be heard on the subject being considered. 1985 WL 549176 (Iowa A.G.). See also, Dobrovolny v. Reinhardt, 173 N.W.2d 837, 840-41 (Iowa 1970).

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  • Kansas

    There is no statutory right to comment. Public bodies may adopt their own rules for public comment and may disallow public comment altogether.

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  • Kentucky

    Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act does not provide the right to comment at a public meeting.

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  • Maine

    The Act does not grant to the general public a right to comment at public meetings, but comment may be authorized by particular statutes or bylaws governing a specific public body. A person wishing to comment may request an opportunity to do so, and many public bodies do allow an opportunity for public comment as a matter of course. Anyone wishing to comment should contact the relevant public body for their protocols and expectations regarding public comment.  Public comment is often limited to a short period of time.  Any person may submit written comments, of course.

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  • Maryland

    The Act protects only the right to observe; it makes no reference to a right to comment or participate. § 3-303(a). See City of New Carrollton v. Rogers, 287 Md. 56, 72 (1980) (“While the Act does not afford the public any right to participate in the meetings, it does assure the public right to observe the deliberative process and the making of decisions by the public body at open meetings.”). Accordingly, unless there are other laws governing a particular public body that require the receipt of comment, the decision to allow members of the public to speak resides with the body. OMA Manual, at 3-2.

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  • Massachusetts

    The law related to municipal meetings states that "[n]o person shall address a public meeting of a governmental body without permission of the presiding officer at such meeting, and all persons shall, at the request of such presiding officer, be silent." G.L. c. 39, § 23C. There are no other statutes or case law addressing this issue.

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  • Michigan

    The right to comment is not covered by the Open Meetings Act. This right is typically provided for by provisions in the charters of the specific local governmental unit.

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  • Montana

    The Montana Constitution declares:

    The public has a right to expect governmental agencies to afford such reasonable opportunity for citizen participation in the operation of the agencies prior to the final decision as may be provided by law.

    Mont. Const., Art. II, § 8 (1972). The Montana Supreme Court has rarely construed this provision, but it has indicated that the language "as may be provided by law" means that the Constitution does not create any rights of participation beyond what is created by statute. See Kadillak v. Anaconda Co., 184 Mont. 127, 602 P.2d 147 (1979).

    The legislature implemented the constitutional intent by enacting Mont. Code Ann. §§ 2-3-101 to 114. These provisions provide general guidelines for public participation in governmental decisions.

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  • Nevada

    Legislative history on Nevada law suggests that legislators intended to allow members of the public to bring "unagendized topics to the attention of a public body for discussion purposes only." See 1991 Nev. Op. Atty. Gen. 6 (May 23, 1991), fn 1.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute does not address any of the issue that follow. By procedural rules and practice public bodies typically announce by notice and hold meetings at which the public may comment and meetings where the public may only listen.

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  • North Dakota

    North Dakota law does not require that the public be allowed to participate at an open meeting. However, an opportunity for public comment is not prohibited.

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  • Ohio

    Nothing in the open meetings statute obligates public bodies to permit citizens to speak or to present petitions.

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  • South Dakota

    This matter has not been legislated or litigated. Presumably, there is a generic right to comment at a public meeting, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

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  • Tennessee

    The statute does not address a right to comment, although governing bodies have traditionally allowed citizen comment.

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  • Texas

    The Act does not create a right to comment. Charlestown Homeowners Ass’n Inc. v. LaCoke, 507 S.W.2d 876, 883 (Tex. Civ. App.-Dallas 1974, writ ref’d n.r.e.). In Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. H-188 (1973), the Attorney General concluded that, although the Act does not give the public a right to speak during meetings under the Act, the governmental body may allow members of the public to speak and participate. In doing so, however, the governmental body must allow comments in an even-handed fashion and may not discriminate among views seeking expression.

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  • Utah

    There is no provision in Utah law that provides an affirmative right to comment.

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  • Virginia

    Not addressed.

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  • Washington

    The OPMA addresses the public’s right to observe, not to participate, in a public meeting. However, a member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attend a meeting, to register his or her name and other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to attendance. RCW 42.30.040.

    There is no right to participate, unless the agency has adopted rules requiring or permitting such participation.

    If a meeting is interrupted by a person or a group so as to render the orderly conduct of the meeting unfeasible and order cannot be restored by the removal of individuals who are interrupting the meeting, the members of the governing body conducting the meeting may order the meeting room cleared and continue in session or may adjourn the meeting and reconvene at another location selected by a majority vote of the members. RCW 42.30.050. However, representatives of the press or other news media, except those participating in the disturbance, shall not be removed and may attend any session held after members of the public have been excluded due to disruption. Id.

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  • Wyoming

    The Wyoming Public Meetings Act does not touch on a right to comment at a public meeting except at Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-406. That statute allows a governing body to prevent willful disruption of a meeting that prevents the orderly conduct of the meeting by removal of the offending parties or recess of the meeting.

    While there is no law governing this issue, most if not all entities provide for public comment during their meetings.

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