Two new laws have passed affecting how county legislative bodies and other local governing bodies must conduct their meetings.
Public Chapter 213, which went into effect April 25, 2023, amends Title 8, Chapter 44, Part 1, to add a new section in the Code requiring local government legislative bodies to make their meeting agendas accessible to the public at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. Importantly, the new law provides that posting the agendas on the local government’s website satisfies this requirement. The new law also authorizes local government bodies to consider matters not on the posted agenda so long as the bodies follow their bylaws or properly adopted rules and procedures and comply with all other applicable state laws.
Public Chapter 300, which goes into effect July 1, 2023, adds another new section at Title 8, Chapter 44, Part 1. This new law requires all governing bodies subject to open meetings requirements (not just the full county legislative body) to reserve time for public comment so that the public may speak on matters germane to items on the agenda. Governing bodies are authorized to impose reasonable restrictions on the public comment period. These include setting a specific length of time for the comment period, designating a set number of speakers allowed for each comment period as well as a set time limit for each speaker, and requiring prior notice of a person’s desire to speak during the comment period. Should a governing body require prior notice from the speakers, the body must provide instructions as to how notice must be given in the body’s meeting notice. In addition, governing bodies are required to take “all practicable steps” to ensure all opposing viewpoints are fairly represented. There are two exceptions to the new public comment requirement. Governing bodies are not required to provide a public comment period during meetings involving certain disciplinary hearings or meetings where no actionable items are on the agenda.
If you have any questions about these new public chapters, please reach out to your County Government Consultant.