Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) has introduced a bill to allow
more than two FCC commissioners to meet privately, so long as there is at least
one commissioner from each party in the room and the meeting's content is
disclosed to the public.
A number of commissioners have argued for letting
commissioners get together to discuss issues, an issue on which former
Republican Chairman Kevin Martin and current
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps agreed.
Currently, sunshine rules prevent more than two
commissioners meeting in person outside of public meetings. That is because all
meetings of federal agencies must be open if there is a quorum present, and
since the FCC has five members, three represents a quorum.
The restriction has led to e-mail or staff-emissary
exchanges or a series of one-on-one meetings.
H.R. 4167, the Federal Communications Commission
Collaboration Act, would expire after five years, so it would have to be
reauthorized if Congress concluded it had been beneficial.
Back when Martin ran the commission, Stupak vetted FCC
processes as chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee
on Oversight and Investigation. That commission was notable for long delays in
meeting start-times as commissioners communicated changes and ferried questions
about controversial items via staffers or written communications.
A spokesman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was
unavailable for comment.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps seemed nearly giddy over the prospect: "I am
thrilled by Congressman Bart Stupak's introduction of the Federal
Communications Commission Collaboration Act. If there was only one action we
could take to reform the FCC, this would be my choice."
Seconding that was veteran communications policy consultant
Jerry Udwin. "Congressman Stupak's bill couldn't have come at a
better time," he said. "The current FCC commissioners face
a huge load of tremendously important, complicated and often interrelated
issues. Enactment of H.R. 4167 would lighten that load by enabling the commissioners
to meet more often and informally. They could exchange ideas directly and
move forward on the issues more efficiently, swiftly and collegially.
And, the bill carefully protects transparency at the Commission. The
sooner it can be enacted the better--to help get the Commission's work done for
all of the interested parties and, most importantly, for the public."