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Rules for Conduct of Public at Meetings of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Overview

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (the Commission) respects the right of the public to offer input and comment as an important part of the Commission’s decision-making process at its meetings.

Commission meetings are governed by rules it sets subject to the laws of the State and subject to our United States Constitution. The Texas Open Meetings Act generally requires that the Commission provide public notice of specific matters which it intends to discuss or act upon at a meeting of a quorum of Commissioners. This same Act also allows the Commission to provide an opportunity for public comment on any matters within its jurisdiction, even if those matters are not listed on the agenda for that meeting, provided that the Commission may not take action in response to such general public comment in the absence of a specific agenda item that gives notice of possible Commission action.

Commission meetings identified as work sessions are open to the public, as provided in the Texas Open Meetings Act. In work sessions, however, the Commission does not take action on the listed agenda items, so there is no public comment opportunity at its work sessions.

At meetings of the Commission where the Commission has given notice that it intends to or may act upon a specific matter, members of the public are ordinarily invited to offer oral public comment on those specific matters. Oral public comment in those Commission meetings is subject to the reasonable, content-neutral limits described in this policy. This policy enables voices to be heard in Commission meetings while allowing the Commission to conduct, in an orderly manner, its public business as the law requires. The presiding officer, in his or her discretion, may modify the oral public comment policy during a particular meeting. If modifications are made they will be reasonable and content-neutral.

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. To submit comments electronically, go to tpwd.texas.gov. Or, comments can be hand delivered or mailed to: General Counsel, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744. The deadline for submission of written comments may be modified for rulemaking items and land transaction items in accordance with other applicable law, including, but not limited the Texas Administrative Procedure Act (Texas Government Code, Chapter 2001), and Chapter 26 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code.

Public Speaking at “general public comment” Sessions (sessions in which comments are not limited to a listed agenda item).

At least once per year, the Commission holds a meeting at which “general public comments” may be made orally to the Commission. At these sessions, speakers have the opportunity to talk about any topic within the jurisdiction of the Commission. Commissioners may not take action on the topics that are raised.

Prior to the beginning of a “general public comments” session, each person who wishes to make such comments must complete, sign and deliver to the Clerk (TPWD staff handling registration) a registration form that is made available by the Clerk a reasonable time prior to the start of such meeting at the location of the meeting. Any written documents the speaker wishes to present to the Commission should be given to the Clerk at the time of registration.

During the general public comments session, the presiding officer shall determine the order in which persons who have timely submitted the form shall offer their oral comments.

Comments by any one speaker shall be limited to no more than two minutes. 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.

Groups of people who wish to address one topic are encouraged to confer and appoint one or more representatives to deliver the group’s comments rather than offering repetitious comments.
The presiding officer, in his or her discretion, may reasonably modify these time limits and rules during a particular meeting.

Public Comments on Agenda Items Posted for Possible Commission Action.

When specific items are posted for possible action by the Commission, oral public comment will be allowed prior to the Commission’s decision, subject to the restrictions in these rules.

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.

After the presiding officer has called the specific agenda item to be considered, following any TPWD staff or other scheduled presentations, the presiding officer will announce an opportunity for oral comments on the specific agenda item. 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. All comments must be directly relevant to the specific agenda item.

Each person who seeks to offer comment is limited to total time of not more than three minutes. 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. The presiding officer, in his or her discretion, may modify these time limits and rules during a particular meeting.

Rules of Conduct for All persons in Attendance at TPW Commission Meetings.

All Speakers who address the Commission may not make profane or personally threatening remarks or comments to TPWD Staff or to any member of the Commission, or to others in attendance. Any person who does so, or engages in any behavior which substantially disrupts the orderly conduct of any Commission meeting shall, at the discretion of the presiding officer, be removed from the meeting room. During public comment on specific noticed action items (not a “general public comments” session), the presiding officer in his discretion may limit or prohibit speakers from making comments that do not relate to the specific noticed agenda item. 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 removal from the meeting room. Substantial disruption of a Commission meeting is a violation of Texas Penal Code section 42.05 (Class B Misdemeanor).