The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (the Board) recently released new Guidelines for Public Participation at its meetings (Guidelines). The stated purpose of the Guidelines is to “balance the rights of individuals who would like to address the Board with the Board’s need to maintain meeting decorum and efficiencies.” The Guidelines aim to provide a pathway for providing comment without compromising the scheduling of Board meetings, which has been a concern of those involved in Board hearings since the public comment process was initiated.
While urging public participation in Board meetings, effective February 5, 2013, the Guidelines provide that:
- Thirty minutes will be designated for public participation each day of a Board meeting, with the time set listed on that day’s meeting agenda. This time may be extended by the Board Chair “to ensure that all viewpoints are heard.”
- Members of the public who wish to comment must pre-register at least seven days prior to the meeting, using a form provided by the Board.
- Time for comment will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and limited to two minutes.
- No more than one person representing the same organization may provide testimony regarding the same project (i.e., no “stacking” of two-minute increments by multiple members of one organization).
- Comments are to be limited to one project or issue, and are to be “focused and relevant” to the projects on that day’s agenda. Prior participation in a public hearing or submission of written comments is a bar to providing the same comments during the public comment period.
- Visual aids or provision of handouts is prohibited during the public comment period.
- Inflammatory or derogatory comments are prohibited.
- Failure to comply with the Guidelines permits the Board to bar an individual’s provision of comments at a meeting.