Unfortunately, many citizens who go to Shreveport city council meetings have a major misunderstanding on their right to address the council.
The United States Constitution does not guarantee this right. Nor does the Louisiana Constitution.
It’s the Louisiana Open Meetings Law. And guess what?
This right is limited to agenda items. Yes, AGENDA ITEMS only.
Louisiana Revised Statute 42:14 (D) provides:
"Except school boards…each public body conducting a meeting …shall allow a public comment period at any point in the meeting prior to action on a agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken. The governing body may adopt reasonable rules and regulation regarding such comment period."
No where does the Open Meetings Law provide for comments on non-agenda items.
Repeat—NO right to address a public body on NON AGENDA items.
The Shreveport city council has always allowed public comments on any matter. But the rub is "when"—are non agenda items comments heard at the beginning of the meeting or at the end?
After an ill-advised change in rules of procedure, citizens can now talk about anything at a Council meeting before legislation is considered. Previously non-agenda items could only be addressed at the end of the meetings.
Now the real business of the council—legislative—is delayed anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes due to comments on non agenda items. The real business of the council is being hampered by the rule change.