In 1967, the State of Florida passed the "Government-in-the-Sunshine Law." This law establishes the right for citizens to attend most meetings by boards and governing bodies such as our City Commission and Local Planning Agency.
What is the difference between a Public Meeting and a Public Hearing?
A public meeting occurs whenever a quorum of a governing board, citizen board, or committee meets. These meetings are open to the public, and citizens are allowed to attend; however, even though the public is often allowed to participate in these meetings, public participation is not required by state law. Examples of such items are approval of agreements, board/committee appointments; or issues such as drainage, street resurfacing, and construction of a City building like the Community Center.
All of our City Commission meetings are public meetings and the City Commission may have some discretion in opening the meeting to the public on general topics; however, it is the custom of our City Commission to encourage public participation.
Another venue for public participation when you wish to speak to the Commission regarding a City matter that is not on the agenda. You should be aware that comments will be kept to a three (3) minute time limit.
The main purpose of a public hearing is to obtain public testimony, evidence or comments.
There are two types of public hearings: legislative and quasi-judicial.
The purpose of a legislative public hearing is to obtain public input on legislative decisions on matters of policy, setting the tax rate, approving the budget, amending the comprehensive land use plan or adopting general ordinances. A legislative public hearing is generally less formal than a quasi-judicial hearing since it is a policy making proceeding and it does not involve the legal rights of property owners but rather affects a wider range of citizens.
A quasi-judicial public hearing is much like a courtroom proceeding, in that testimony and evidence is presented, as well as having expert witnesses testify and allowing cross-examination of those witnesses. These hearings involve land use matters including requests for zonings, site plan approvals, variances and conditional uses. The decisions made at the hearing are based upon and supported by the testimony and evidence presented.
When is the appropriate time to address my agenda item at a meeting?
When your agenda item comes up and our Mayor or Chairperson announces that the "meeting is open to the public for comment," this is the time to get up and speak. First, request recognition by the Mayor or Chairperson, come to the microphone at the podium and give your name and address for the record, and participate in "government in the sunshine!"