TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida's citizens would get the right to be heard - and not just seen - at local government meetings under a bill that has cleared a House panel.

The Government Operations subcommittee on Wednesday approved the bill (HB 23) by a vote of 12-0.

The measure follows 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 does allow 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 order. A similar bill (SB 50) is under consideration in the Senate.