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Georgia Legislature

Heightened Level of Openness for Board of Education Meetings Now Law in Georgia

The Georgia General Assembly took a step during the most recent legislative session to ensure a heightened level of openness at Board of Education meetings. That measure has now become law.

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Senate Bill 588, sponsored by Senator Butch Miller, reaffirms the requirement of local school boards to provide public comment periods during their regular monthly meetings. It goes several steps further by not only requiring that the “public comment period shall be included on the agenda required to be made available and posted prior to the meeting” but adding requirements for when individuals can be limited and removed from meetings. 

An individual who is disruptive to a meeting may still be removed, but only if causing an actual disturbance and such removal must be in line with standards approved by the board and published for public review and consideration. 

The chairperson – not the superintendent – of the local board of education is granted the discretion to limit the length of time for individual comments and the number of individuals speaking for or against a specific issue, but otherwise, speech cannot be limited. Additionally, the bill requires school boards to place their entire year’s worth of regular meeting dates on the school system’s website – specifically in a prominent location. This must be done by October 1, 2022 and then by August 1 every year after.

The measure also prohibits school boards from requiring more than 24 hour notice by an individual to address the school board during that public comment section of the meeting. Nothing in this specific code section prevents individuals from being placed on the agenda through another procedure outlined by the school board.

Though covered under the Georgia Open Meetings Act, the code section also explicitly states that audio and visual recording of all portions of the meeting is permitted by the public. 

Governor Kemp signed the bill into law on April 28, 2022 but it did not officially take effect until July 1, 2022. 

The bill was sponsored in the House by Representative Bonnie Rich. She lost her primary election in May. 

41 House members voted against the measure while 20 Senate members opposed the bill. Their names are as follows:

Representatives:

  • Kim Alexander
  • Erick Allen
  • Teri Anulewicz
  • Taylor Bennett
  • William Boddie
  • Howard Bruce
  • Debbie Buckner
  • James Burnough
  • Doreen Carter
  • David Clark
  • Viola Davis
  • Karla Drenner
  • David Dreyer
  • Winfred Dukes
  • Spencer Frye
  • Carl Gilliard
  • Betsy Holland
  • El-Mahdi Holly
  • CaMia Hopson
  • Carolyn Hugley
  • Shelly Hutchinson
  • Derrick Jackson
  • Edna Jackson
  • Deborah Kausche
  • Dar’Shun Kendrick
  • Greg Kennard
  • Pedro Marin
  • McClain
  • Josh McLaurin
  • Donna McLeod
  • Marie Metze
  • Rebecca Mitchell 
  • Sheila Nelson
  • Mary Margaret Oliver
  • Sam Park
  • Kim Schofield
  • Sandra Scott
  • Calvin Smyre
  • David Wilkerson
  • Al Williams 

Senators:

  • Tonya Anderson
  • Gloria Butler
  • Gail Davenport
  • Sonya Halpern
  • Ed Harbison
  • Sally Harrell
  • Kim Jackson
  • Lester Jackson
  • Donzella James
  • Emanuel Jones
  • Harold Jones II
  • David Lucas
  • Nikki Merritt
  • Nan Orrock
  • Elena Parent
  • Sheikh Rahman
  • Michael Rhett
  • Valencia Seay
  • Freddie Powell Sims
  • Horencea Tate
Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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