House Members Take Bill Off Notice Requiring Public Hearings on Petitions Over 5,000 Signatures at State Colleges and Universities

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House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee members took a bill off notice this week that required state colleges and universities to host a public meeting with opportunities for public comment on all petitions created by students, alumni, faculty, or staff receiving more than 5,000 signatures.  Among other provisions, the legislation required notices for each meeting to be posted in every campus building, on the campus website, and in a newspaper of general circulation.  It also required the meetings to be streamed live on the web and created a special panel to hear such issues.  The panel would have been composed of various state legislators, students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The bill provided no way to verify or validate petition signatures, especially if the bill would permit the use of online petition platforms.  Most—if not all—of these platforms allow one user to sign a petition multiple times (under a different name) if they have multiple valid email addresses.

The bill concerned the state’s public higher education community for both its financial implications (no additional state funding was proposed to help cover the bill’s implementation costs) and wading into campus policy matters traditionally handled by higher education managers or institutional governing bodies.  Sponsored by Rep. Roger Kane (R-Knoxville), the bill was taken off notice in the Tuesday afternoon Subcommittee meeting.

Taking a bill “off notice” means that it will no longer be heard in committee unless the sponsor of the bill attempts to re-calendar it.

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