A bill that seeks to require public comment at school meetings advanced to the Indiana governor’s desk after lawmakers gave their final approval Wednesday.
The bill mandates that school boards offer an oral public comment period at all public meetings, including those conducted virtually. The legislation was proposed after confrontational or disruptive school board meetings over the last year saw some boards suspend or restrict public comment sessions.
If signed into law by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, the measure would go into effect on July 1. Holcomb’s other options are to veto the bill or let it pass into law without his signature.
An original version of the bill would have applied to the governing body of any state or local public agency, like city and county councils. It also guaranteed a minimum of three minutes to each individual who wants to speak.
That language was rolled back, however, limiting the bill to just school board meetings.
Lawmakers additionally removed the time requirement provision in response to pushback from dozens of Indiana school board officials, who testified that such a rule would increase the workload for district officials and result in “unreasonably” lengthy school board meetings.
The final version of the bill states that school board can adopt “reasonable rules” to accommodate public comment periods and maintain order in meetings. That includes setting time limits for those who speak, and removing a disruptive person from the meeting.