TRENTON, N.J. – Members of the public would be granted at least three minutes each to speak during meetings involving public bodies under a bill introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer.
The bill (A5287) expands New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act by requiring all public entities, not just municipal governing bodies or boards of education, to provide a public comment period on meeting agendas.
“Our residents should never feel shut out or that their voices aren’t being heard. Having a public comment period makes government better and should be required of all agencies that serve the public or their interests,” explained Dancer (R-Ocean). “It allows people to raise issues of concern, be involved in finding solutions, and have a direct line to decision makers.”
All public bodies would be required to allow members of the public to speak for at least three minutes during meetings. Members of the public would need to address the items on the agenda or an issue that would be of concern to the public body holding the meeting. The bill does not require the Legislature to allow public comment during its voting sessions because the public has the opportunity to be heard during legislative committee meetings.
“The ability to participate in public meetings was diminished by the coronavirus and related changes to meeting procedures. We must not only restore transparency; we need to expand it. Open dialogue is extremely important to establishing trust with the public,” said Dancer.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.