Fla. Senate passes 'right to speak' bill

Published On: Mar 19 2013 11:09:28 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 19 2013 11:09:49 AM EDT

People would get the right to be heard - and not just seen - at local government and state agency meetings under a bill passed by the Florida Senate.

The Senate on Tuesday approved the bill (SB 50) unanimously by a vote of 40-0. A companion measure is under consideration in the House.

The bill is a response to appeals-court rulings on Florida's open-government "sunshine law." Those decisions interpreted the law as requiring officials to meet in public but not requiring them to give citizens a voice.

The bill allows governments to set time limits on public comment and exempts some meetings of an emergency or purely ceremonial nature. It also allows enforcement by court orders known as injunctions.