Outbursts Banned at Anne Arundel County Council Meetings

5-2 Vote Limits Certain Types of Speech

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    Outbursts have been banned at Anne Arundel County Council meetings, but at least one attendee is saying the new resolution violates first amendment rights.

    The "order and decorum" clause in a new resolution was passed 5-2 in a council meeting last week. Chairman Jerry Walker proposed the changes when the the council met earlier this month.

    Abusive language is now prohibited at council meetings, including speech that is loud or threatening or anything the chairperson decides "disturbs the orderly conduct" of a session.

    In addition, the clause prohibits the public from bringing signs, banners or balloons to council sessions.

    Anyone who violates the rules could be called to order and be removed from the meeting.

    The resolution also laid out other rule changes, including a limit on the amount of time attendees can speak and a line on relevance.

    The latter gives the council chairperson the authority to cut off speakers if they offer irrelevant information in a testimony.

    During testimony on the measure, meeting attendee Karen Delimater said the resolution violated her rights to speech, petition and redress of grievances, calling it an "absolute unconstitutional prior restraint on speech."