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Commissioners Court amends parliamentary rules

Orange County Commissioners Court amended the Parliamentary rules approved the pervious week.

Streamlining the court and allowing for more organization, the parliamentary rules were brought before the court.

The rules can be found on the Orange County Commissioners Court official website.

Commissioner Precinct 3 John Banken voted against the rules both weeks due to the wording of rule number two which reads:

  1. Recognition for Comment – The Presiding Officer of a Commissioners’ Court Session or Workshop has the sole discretion to recognize anybody for comment. No comments shall be taken from anybody without prior recognition or continued recognition from the Presiding Officer. Members of the Court shall not be prevented from commenting, but shall await recognition from the Presiding Officer before commenting. Members of the public must come forward to the podium after recognition.

“Citizens have the right, obligation to ask questions,” Banken said. “We work for the citizens. Everyone has the right to speak.”

Rule number three, in part, reads: If the violator refuses to leave and continues to act in an unacceptable manner, then the Presiding Officer shall ask the Sheriff or other Peace Officer to remove the violator.

“Far as I know, no one has ever had to be escorted out,” Banken said.

“A person has never been removed from the court,” Commissioner Precinct 4 Jody Crump said. “If anyone ever got unruly, peace officers are available to remove them, this just puts it in writing.”

Commissioner Precinct 2 Barry Burton pointed out, since the court is a constitutional court, an individual could be held in contempt of court as well.

Banken said he had an issue with eliminating citizen’s comments from the agenda.

The Texas Open Meeting Act does not entitle the public to choose the items to be discussed or to speak about items on the agenda. However, the court may adopt procedures to give members of the public an opportunity to speak at court meetings, according to the publication Open Meetings Act 2015 by the Texas Association of Counties.

The first rules adopted, rule number two read: Recognition for Comment – The Presiding Officer of a Commissioners’ Court Session or Workshop has the sole discretion to recognize anybody for comment. No comments shall be taken from anybody without prior recognition or continued recognition from the Presiding Officer. Members of the Court shall not be unreasonably restricted from commenting.

Originally, the last sentence was not included but added as insurance the court would not be preventing to speak. In the amended version, it now reads: Members of the Court shall not be prevented from commenting, but shall await recognition from the Presiding Officer before commenting. Members of the public must come forward to the podium after recognition.

A citizen, during the initial discussion of the parliamentary rules, asked why the court did not vote for Robert’s Rules as the State uses.

Robert’s Rules of Order, dating from 1915, are stricter than the eight rules adopted by the court. A cheat sheet for the rules of order is five-pages long. The book is 208 pages long, which includes how to properly request an item be changed from the position on the agenda, and voting for approval of the change of order.

“I think we are doing a pretty good job,” Banken said. “I am not sure what brought this [parliamentary rules] on. I don’t want someone to say I can’t speak or a time limit.”

A time limit is not mentioned in the parliamentary rules. The only limit is a three-minute limit to citizen’s comments, which is stated on the agenda. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, if a debate is continuing too long, a member can ask, after recognition, “President, I move to limit discussions to two minutes per speaker.”

Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said he presented the parliamentary rules after his first year as County Judge and seeing what did and did not work in court.

“The main reason for rule number two is to prevent people from speaking over each other and allowing for a more clear recording,” Carlton said.

 

Parliamentary Rules of Orange County Commissioners’ Court

  1. Presiding Officer – The Presiding Officer shall be determined in the following order: County Judge, then Judge Pro Tem if the County Judge is absent, and finally the senior member of the Court if both the County Judge and Judge Pro Tem are absent.
  2. Recognition for Comment – The Presiding Officer of a Commissioners’ Court Session or Workshop has the sole discretion to recognize anybody for comment. No comments shall be taken from anybody without prior recognition or continued recognition from the Presiding Officer. Members of the Court shall not be prevented from commenting, but shall await recognition from the Presiding Officer before commenting. Members of the public must come forward to the podium after recognition.
  3. Comments – Comments will be made one at a time and respectfully. At no time will those giving comments speak over each other or become disrespectful to the Court or any member of the Court. Those violating this rule will be reminded of this rule by the Presiding Officer. If unacceptable behavior continues, then the violator will be asked to leave by the Presiding Officer. If the violator refuses to leave and continues to act in an unacceptable manner, then the Presiding Officer shall ask the Sheriff or other Peace Officer to remove the violator.
  4. Motions – The entering of a motion and a second to that motion are not considered comments requiring recognition from the Presiding Officer.
  5. Voting – All votes shall be taken by Roll Vote. This means the voting will be recorded individually and done in linear order from right to left or left to right. Where the Roll Vote begins is determined by the Presiding Officer.
  6. Agenda Items – All members of the Court have the discretion to add their agenda items or have their agenda items removed. The two exceptions to non-Presiding Officer discretionary removal are if the agenda has already been posted or if the subject of the agenda item is already aware of the existence of the agenda item and the subject of the agenda item specifically requests that the agenda item remain. In either of those instances, the Presiding Officer has the discretion to post an amended agenda or remove the agenda item before posting. All agenda items must be submitted in writing to the Office of the County Judge and the submitters name will be placed below their agenda item.
  7. Description of Agenda Items – Whoever is listed as the submitter of an agenda item may give a brief description and summary of the background and purpose of said agenda item. Such a brief description and summary of said agenda item is not considered a comment requiring recognition from the Presiding Officer. However, the Presiding Officer has the sole discretion to end the brief description and summary of the agenda item if the Presiding Officer determines the description and summary are not brief.
  8. Availability of These Rules – The Presiding Officer shall ensure these rules are posted on the Commissioners’ Court website and in the Commissioners’ Court room. All individuals in the Commissioners’ Court room are responsible for knowing these rules.