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Commission Agenda Item No. 1
Presenter: Robert Sweeney

Action
Temporary Commission Meeting Policy Regarding Meeting Procedures
May 21, 2020

I.      Executive Summary:  With this item, the staff seeks the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s (Commission)  adoption of a temporary public participation policy applicable to the Commission meeting and the suspension of current Commission Policy CP-001 regarding public participation to the extent the current policy is inconsistent with the temporary policy.  This temporary policy is necessary to protect public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic while the Commission conducts its essential public business.

II.    Discussion:  Commission Policy CP-001 contains a number of provisions regarding in-person participation by members of the public at Commission meetings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holding an in-person public meeting may not in the best interest of public health and safety, and the May 2020 meeting may be conducted by teleconference.  Accordingly, in the event that in-person public comment is not available, the Commission will temporarily suspend those portions of CP-001 that relate to in-person participation at a Commission meeting and will adopt temporary measures applicable to a meeting held by teleconference.  The suspension of the permanent provisions and adoption of the temporary provisions, if necessary, apply to the May 2020 Commission meeting only.

The Office of the Governor (OOG) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have recognized the challenges inherent in complying with Texas Government Code chapter 551 (the Open Meetings Act) during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In response to the OAG’s request, the OOG has waived a number of the requirements of chapter 551.  The OOG has directed, however, that agency public meetings held by teleconference or videoconference during the declared COVID-19 emergency meet the following minimum standards for public participation:

In addition, the Commission will not accept paper submissions at this meeting.  All written submissions must be provided electronically.

Lists of the temporary and suspended policy provisions are attached as Exhibits A and B.

III.   Recommendation:  The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the proposed motion:

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the temporary policy attached regarding public participation in Commission meetings and suspends any conflicting provisions of CP-001.  This Commission action is effective solely for the duration of the May 2020 Commission meeting.”

Attachments – 2

  1. Exhibit A – Temporary Policy
  2. Exhibit B – List of Suspended Portions of CP-001

Commission Agenda Item No. 1
Exhibit A

TEMPORARY POLICY:

Members of the public who wish to offer oral comment to the Commission on specific items during a Commission meeting must follow the procedures for registration and call-in that are provided on the TPWD website.

During the meeting, the public must be able to both hear the meeting and address the Commission.

The meeting must be recorded, and the recording must be available for public access.

Every party to the meeting, including Commissioners, employees, and members of the public, must be identified prior to speaking.

If there are technological difficulties or audio is hard to understand, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will address these problems, and the Commission may recess the meeting.

Any person who makes profane or personally threatening remarks or comments to TPWD staff, a member of the Commission, or others in attendance, or who engages in any behavior that substantially disrupts the orderly conduct of any Commission meeting shall, at the discretion of the presiding officer, be muted, removed from the teleconference, or otherwise prevented from disrupting the meeting.  Failure of a speaker or a member of the audience to comply with the presiding officer’s direction to cease comments or behavior that violates these rules is grounds for being muted, removed from the teleconference, or otherwise prevented from disrupting the meeting.


Commission Agenda Item No. 1
Exhibit B

SUSPENDED PROVISIONS OF CP-001:

In addition to the oral public comment opportunity described in this policy, the public can participate in Commission decision-making by submitting written comments prior to action by the Commission. All timely written comments (submitted to the clerk of the Commission with at least 10 copies at least 1 hour prior to the start of the meeting at which Commission action may be taken) will be made available to the Commissioners prior to the start of the meeting.

Or, comments can be hand delivered or mailed to: General Counsel, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744.

Prior to any Commission vote or action on a particular agenda item, each person who wishes to speak must sign up on a form that is made available by the Clerk a reasonable time prior to the start of such meeting at the location of the meeting.

Members of the public who have timely submitted the form to offer public comment on the specific item will be called individually in the order determined by the presiding officer.

A “stoplight” system is used to signal how much time a speaker has remaining. The yellow light means that a speaker’s time is almost over. The red light means that a speaker’s time is up and the speaker must leave the podium so that others may speak.