Senate advances bill to require comment period at school board meetings

House Bill 121 calls on school boards to provide a public comment period of at least 15 minutes, or until comment ends

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) -A bill that would require civility and public comment periods during school board meetings advanced Thursday on the Senate floor.

House Bill 121 calls on school boards to provide a public comment period of at least 15 minutes, or until comment ends, at each regular meeting. The comment period could be passed over if no one has made a request to speak.

Republican Sen. Max Wise, of Campbellsville, presented the bill on the Senate floor and told lawmakers that parents were sometimes shut out of school board meetings in Kentucky and many other states.

“I think it would be an understatement to say that for the past two years, there’s probably not been more attendance, passion, debate, … dialogue that’s been expressed in local school board meetings in a long, long time.”

HB 121 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Regina Huff, of Williamsburg; Republican Rep. Thomas Huff, of Shepherdsville; and Republican Rep. Brandon Reed, of Hodgenville. It received approval in the Senate with a 25-10 vote after lawmakers adopted two amendments. The bill will now return to the House.

One amendment was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Gerald A. Neal, of Louisville. It would require that any board rules and policies related to conduct during meetings remain in effect during the public comment period.

“That’s to make sure that we maintain the civility and the order that obviously anyone conducting a hearing of any kind, a board meeting of any kind, must maintain,” he said.

The second amendment – sponsored by Republican Sen. Adrienne Southworth, of Lawrenceburg – clarified that the public comment period could last longer than 15 minutes if needed.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, of Louisville, stood in opposition to HB 121 after noting that he too is a parent.

“I believe in having parents’ voices involved in education,” he said. “Let’s make no mistake about what we are doing here today though. We are telling locally elected officials how to run their meetings.”

Wise concluded by thanking parents and school officials, who he said never expected to be dealing with the issues that have come their way.

“In the times of strife, in the times of compassion and passion, we appreciate the work that each one of our local officials have displayed,” he said.

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