New law in Texas changes citizen comment procedures at local government meetings
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
In September, a bill passed by the 86th Texas Legislature went into effect allowing each member of the public who wants to address a governmental body (city councils, county commissions, school boards, hospital districts, public colleges, etc.) to provide comment at an open meeting before or during consideration of that item.
Prior to the new law, it was not mandatory to allow the public to speak. However, most government offered a scheduled “Public Comment” segment, where an individual was able to sign up to speak at the beginning, middle or end of the meeting. HB 2840 by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) allows a person to speak to a government body at the start of the meeting, at the end and before a vote of each listed agenda item.
Governmental bodies are supposed to set comment time limits, as well as set up rules for how an individual speaks, i.e. a sign-up sheet, raising a hand, etc.
In addition to government bodies, the new law also applies to a nonprofit corporation eligible to receive funds under the federal community services block grant program, in addition to a nonprofit corporation that provides a water supply, wastewater service or both.
Lastly, the new law prevents a governmental body from prohibiting public criticism of the government body, including criticism of any act, omission, policy, procedure, programs or service.
By Kara Mayfield, Principal
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