Open Floor Sessions

3/6/2020

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It is a commonly held view that “the legislature’s business is the people’s business.” According to the 1985 Florida Select Subcommittee on Open Government Laws, “Open government is inherent in the very concept of political democracy and representative government.” The constitutional requirements for open floor sessions allow citizens to personally view legislative action and see how the public interest is being served. 

Examples of Constitutional Provisions

Alabama

Ala. Const. Art. 4, § 57

The doors of each house shall be opened except on such occasions as, in the opinion of the house, may require secrecy, but no person shall be admitted to the floor of either house while the same is in session, except members of the legislature, the officers and employes of the two houses, the governor and his secretary, representatives of the press, and other persons to whom either house, by unanimous vote, may extend the privileges of its floor.

Arkansas

Ark. Const. Art. 5, § 13

The sessions of each house, and of committees of the whole, shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

California

Calif. Const. Art. 4, § 7

... (c) (1) The proceedings of each house and the committees thereof shall be open and public. However, closed sessions may be held soley for any of the following purposes:
(A) To consider the appointment, employment, evaluation of performance, or dismissal of a public officer or employee, to consider or hear complaints or charges brought against a Member of the Legislature or other public officer or employee, or to establish the classification or compensation of an employee of the Legislature.
(B) To consider matters affecting the safety and security of Members of the Legislature or its employees or the safety and security of any buildings and grounds used by the Legislature.
(C) To confer with, or receive advice from, its legal counsel regarding pending or reasonably anticipated, or whether to initiate, litigation when discussion in open session would not protect the interests of the house or committee regarding the litigation.

Colorado

Colo. Const. Art. 5, § 14

The sessions of each house, and of the committees of the whole, shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

Connecticut

Conn. Const. Art. 3, § 16

The debates of each house shall be public, except on such occasions as in the opinion of the house may require secrecy.

Delaware 

Del. Const. Art. 2, § 11

The doors of each House, and of Committees of the Whole, shall be open unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

Florida

Fla. Const. Art. 3, § 4

… (b) Sessions of each house shall be public; except sessions of the senate when considering appointment to or removal from public office may be closed. …

Georgia

Ga. Const. Art. 3, § 4, Par. 11

The sessions of the General Assembly and all standing committee meetings thereof shall be open to the public. Either house may by rule provide for exceptions to this requirement.

Hawaii

Hawaii Const. Art. 3, § 12 [applies to committees only]

… Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members from both houses held for the purpose of making decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public. …

Idaho

Idaho Const. Art. 3, § 12

The business of each house, and of the committee of the whole shall be transacted openly and not in secret session.

Illinois

Ill. Const. Art. 4, § 5

... (c) Sessions of each house of the General assembly and meetings of committees, joint committees and legislative commissions shall be open to the public. Sessions and committee meetings of a house may be closed to the public if two-thirds of the members elected to that house determine that the public interest so requires; and meetings of joint committees and legislative commissions may be closed if two-thirds of the members elected to each house so determine.

Indiana

Ind. Const. Art. 4, § 13

The doors of each House, and of Committees of the Whole, shall be kept open, except in such cases, as, in the opinion of either House, may require secrecy.

Iowa

Iowa Const. Art. 3, § 13

The doors of each house shall be open, except on such occasions, as, in the opinion of the house, may require secrecy.

Louisiana

La. Const. Art. 12, § 3

No person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law.

Maryland

Md. Const. Art. 3, § 21

The doors of each House, and the Committee of the Whole, shall be open, except when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

Michigan

Mich. Const. Art. 4, § 20

The doors of each house shall be open unless the public security otherwise requires.

Minnesota

Minn. Const. Art. 4, § 14

Each house shall be open to the public during its sessions except in cases which in its opinion require secrecy.

Mississippi

Miss. Const. Art. 4, § 58

The doors of each House, when in session, or in committee of the whole, shall be kept open, except in cases which may require secrecy; and each House may punish, by fine and imprisonment, any person not a member who shall be guilty of disrespect to the House by any disorderly or contemptuous behavior in its presence, or who shall in any way disturb its deliberations during the session; but such imprisonment shall not extend beyond the final adjournment of that session.

Missouri

Mo. Const. Art. 3, § 20

… The sessions of each house shall be held with open doors, except in cases which may require secrecy but not including the final vote on bills, resolutions and confirmations. …

Montana

Mont. Const. Art. 5, § 10

… (3) The sessions of the legislature and of the committee of the whole, all committee meetings, and all hearings shall be open to the public. …

Nebraska

Neb. Const. Art. 3, § 11

… The doors of the Legislature and of the committees of the Legislature shall be open, except when the business shall be such as ought to be kept secret. …

Nevada

Nev. Const. Art. 4, § 15

The doors of the galleries, of each house of the legislature, shall be kept open to all persons who behave decently, except when the welfare of the state, in the opinion of either branch, shall require secrecy.

New Hampshire

N.H. Const. Pt. 2, Art. 8

The doors of the galleries, of each house of the legislature, shall be kept open to all persons who behave decently, except when the welfare of the state, in the opinion of either branch, shall require secrecy.

New Mexico

N.M. Const. Art. 4, § 12

All sessions of each house shall be public. Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings and the yeas and nays on any questions shall, at the request of one-fifth of the members present, be entered thereon. The original thereof shall be filed with the secretary of state at the close of the session, and shall be printed and published under his authority.

New York

N.Y. Const. Art. 3, § 10

Each house of the legislature shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and publish the same, except such parts as may require secrecy. The doors of each house shall be kept open, except when the public welfare shall require secrecy. Neither house shall, without the consent of each other, adjourn for more than two days.

North Dakota

N.D. Const. Art. 4, § 14

All sessions of the legislative assembly, including the committee of the whole and meetings of legislative committees, must be open and public.

Ohio

Ohio Const. Art. 2, § 13

The proceedings of both houses shall be public, except in cases which, in the opinion of two-thirds of those present, require secrecy.

Oregon

Ore. Const. Art. 4, § 14

The deliberations of each house, of committees of each house or joint committees and of committees of the whole, shall be open. Each house shall adopt rules to implement the requirement of this section and the houses jointly shall adopt rules to implement the requirements of this section in any joint activity that the two houses may undertake.

Pennsylvania

Pa. Const. Art. 2, § 13

The sessions of each House and of committees of the whole shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

South Carolina

S.C. Const. Art. 3, § 23

The doors of each house shall be open, except on such occasions as in the opinion of the House may require secrecy.

South Dakota

S.D. Const. Art. 3, § 15

The sessions of each house and of the committee of the whole shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

Tennessee

Tenn. Const. Art. 3, § 22

The doors of each House and of committees of the whole shall be kept open, unless when the business shall be such as ought to be kept secret.

Texas

Tex. Const. Art. 3, § 16

The sessions of each House shall be open, except the Senate when in Executive session.

Utah

Utah Const. Art. 6, § 15

All sessions of the Legislature, except those of the Senate while sitting in executive session, shall be public; and neither house, without the consent of the other, shall adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which it may be holding session.

Vermont

Vt. Const. Art. 2, § 8

The doors of the House in which the General Assembly of this Commonwealth shall sit, shall be open for the admission of all persons who behave decently, except only when the welfare of the State may require them to be shut.

Washington

Wash. Const. Art. 2, § 11

… The doors of each house shall be kept open, except when the public welfare shall require secrecy. …

Wisconsin

Wisc. Const. Art. 4, § 10

… The doors of each house shall be kept open except when the public welfare shall require secrecy. …

Wyoming

Wyo. Const. Art. 3, § 14

The sessions of each house and of the committee of the whole shall be open unless the business is such as requires secrecy.

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