On Friday, April 28th, 2023, Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law that requires Tennessee’s governing bodies to allow time for citizen comments at publicly held meetings.
Senate Bill 0551 (SB0551), was sponsored by Sen. Adam Lowe (R-Calhoun-District 1) and its companion House Bill 0448 (HB0448), was sponsored by Rep. Elaine Davis (R-Knoxville-District 18).
Regarding the need for such legislation, Senator Lowe said, “We have had some indications throughout the state, of election commissions, occasionally school boards, that are not providing adequate public comment in meetings that have an agenda with actionable items. This would make it by law, that they would have to provide a time for public comment.”
The bill also allows governing bodies to put reasonable limitations on public comment.
“Much like we do on this committee,” Sen. Lowe said, referencing set timeframes for public testimony and set amounts of a meeting’s time that can be devoted to public comment, in order to avoid any specific person or group from filibustering a meeting.