New law could change citizen comment procedures at some government meetings in Texas

A new Texas law that went into effect in September could change public comment procedures at some government meetings in Texas.

A new Texas law that went into effect in September could change public comment procedures at some government meetings in Texas.

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 to provide comment at an open meeting before or during consideration of that item.

Previously, according to the Texas Municipal League’s website, the public only had the right to observe government meetings under the Texas Open Meetings Act rather than the right to speak. However, TML Executive Director Bennett Sandlin said the vast majority of Texas municipal governments heard public comment during meetings before House Bill 2840 was passed, and he said the new bill “didn’t radically change what cities were doing.”

“It is still going to be something that most cities are allowing anyway,” Sandlin said. “The truth of the matter is mayors and councils believe in hearing public comment.”

The new legislation will have no fundamental changes on Travis County Commissioners Court meetings, which have always allowed for public comment, according to a county spokesperson.

HB 2840 was introduced by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and co-authored by three other South Texas House members: Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen; Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; and Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo. It passed 138-3 in the House on its final reading and unanimously in the Senate before Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill May 22.

Because the bill mandates citizens must have the right to speak before or during the consideration of agenda items, government entities will not be allowed to hold public comment related to the business they are considering at the end of a meeting.

There are some restrictions government bodies can put in place regarding public comment. According to the text of the bill, bodies “may adopt reasonable rules” around the public’s right to speak, which include rules limiting the total amount of time a member of the public can address a given item.

HB 2840 was not the only change to the Texas Open Meetings Act passed in the 86th Legislature. Senate Bill 1640, authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, made it a criminal offense for public officials to knowingly engage in a series of communications outside of a meeting that would involve a quorum, and SB 494, authored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, adjusted certain legal language regarding open meetings and public information in the event of an emergency or catastrophic event.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at


Lowe’s has signed a lease to occupy a significant portion of the Kyle Crossing Business Park. (Courtesy Plum Creek)
Distribution center for Lowe's coming to Kyle and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Austin-area business and community news.

Williamson County COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped dramatically. Here’s why. (Community Impact staff)
See the five most popular stories on our website in the Austin area for Sept.

Read the top stories in September on Community Impact Newspaper's website from the Austin area.

The Comal ISD board of trustees approved the tax rate for the 2021 fiscal year. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal ISD board passes tax rate for 2021 fiscal year

Ahead of the Oct. 1 start of the 2021 fiscal year, the Comal ISD Board of Trustees approved a property tax rate approximately $0.04 less than the previous year.

The new shop and restaurant will open later this fall, according to the owners. (Courtesy Tejas Meat Supply)
Butcher shop, restaurant coming to Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

The drive-thru opened in New Braunfels in September. (Courtesy Daiquiri Depot)
Daiquiri Depot now open in New Braunfels

The drive-thru offers daiquiris and kids' slushies made from real fruit puree.

The project would include multifamily housing and additional amenities and services. (Courtesy LDG Development)
City of New Braunfels to apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits for proposed multifamily development

Plans for additional affordable housing in New Braunfels are moving forward after City Council approved a plan to submit an application for low-income housing tax credits.

The announcement of the city’s nondrought status came through a press release issued by New Braunfels Utilities on Sept. 28. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
New Braunfels Utilities lifts Stage 1 water restrictions for customers amid sustained rise in aquifer level

The announcement of the city’s nondrought status came through a press release issued by New Braunfels Utilities on Sept. 28.

Chief Tom Wibert served as the New Braunfels police chief for 10 years. (Courtesy New Braunfels Police Department)
New Braunfels police chief announces retirement

After serving the New Braunfels Police Department for 10 years, Police Chief Tom Wibert announced he will be retiring from the force effective Oct. 3.

The seven-day average for the COVID-19 testing positivity rate in Comal County is now 8.52%, up from 5.51% on Sept. 21. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Comal County reports 151 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths since Sept. 21

The county has reported a total of 3,431 cases since March 16. With 3,115 recorded recoveries and 116 deaths, the county has 200 active confirmed cases.

Central Texas outdoor activity shops try to keep inventory and more business, community news from September

Read business and community news from September from Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of Central Texas.

Learn where to vote, who is on the November ballot and how to vote in Comal County. (Community Impact staff)
General Election Guide: How to vote, who is on the ballot and what to know about the Nov. 3 election in Comal County

Learn where to vote, who is on the ballot and how to vote in New Braunfels with our voter guide.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.