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New state law limits unruly behavior in public meetings

Matt Baker makes a public comment at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' meeting in San Diego County, Calif. Aug. 18, 2021.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Matt Baker makes a public comment at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' meeting in San Diego County, Calif. Aug. 18, 2021.

In late August, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law which outlined when and why people may be ejected from public meetings.

San Diego supervisors have also changed the rules of participation, banning disruptive behavior.

The tightening of rules surrounding public discourse is in response to members of the public disrupting public meetings including making threats at city council, board of supervisor and school board meetings in the county, and across the nation — particularly during meetings on COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

However, now that outbursts stemming from these restrictions have largely faded, there are questions as to whether these new rules are still necessary.

David Loy, legal director for the First Amendment Coalition, said there have always been laws in place to codify civil, public discourse, but that this law makes it easier for officials to remove those who run afoul of those guidelines.

"There are outer limits on true threats of harm," Loy said. "Where can be expected to stick within their time limits and not chant above other people."

Outside of the public forum, however, Loy said that robust, often controversial discussion should be protected.

"This is what the First Amendment is guaranteed to protect — robust, uninhibited, wide-open debate; and that's always been true," Loy said.

Loy joined Midday Edition on Wednesday with more on that the new rules could mean for public discourse in California.

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