Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Government in the Sunshine Act
The effect of the Act
"The Sunshine Act provides, with ten specified exemptions, that 'every portion of every meeting of an agency shall be open to public obsernation.' 5 U.S.C. 552b(b) It imposes procedural requirements to ensure, inter alia [among other things], that advance notice is given tot eh public before agency meetings take place. It also imposes procedural requirements an agency must follow before determining that one of the ten exemptions from the openness requirement applies. However, neithe rthe openness requirement, nor the related rocedural requirements, are triggered unless the governmental entity at issue is an "agency," and unless the gathering in question is a 'meeting' of the agency." Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., v. Nuclear Requlatory Commission, 217 F.3d 1180, 1182 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
Definitions and exceptions
The statute defines a "meeting" as "the deliberations of at least the number of individual agency members required to take action on behalf ot he agency where such deliberations determine or result in the joint conduct or disposition of official agency business." 552b(a)(2).
The statute defines "agency" to include "any agency ... headed by a collegial body composed of two or more individual members ... and any subdivision thereof authorized to act on behalf of the agency." 552b(a)(1).
The Statute ennumerates 10 specific exemptions for categories of information that need not be disclosed, including information relating to national defense, related solely to internal personnel rules and practices, related to accusing a person of a crime, relatated to information where disclosure would constitute a breach of privacy, related to investigatory records where the information would harm the proceedings, related to information which would lead to financial speculation or endanger the stability of any financial institution, related to the agency's participation in legal proceedings.
The legislative intent of the Act is as follows: "The basic premise of the sunshine legislation is that, in the words of federalist No. 49, "the people are the only legitimate foundain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter ... is derived." Government is and should be the servant of the people, and it should be fully accountable to them for the actions which it supposedly takes on their behalf." (U.S.C.C.A.N. 2183, 2186).
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