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Approved For Release 2001/09/07 : CIA-RDP77M00144R000800030011-2.. GOVERNMENT IN THE SUNSHINE Capping off a three-year effort, the Senate Nov. 6 unanimously passed a bill (S 5) requiring that most meet- ings of independent federal agencies be open to the public. The bill also would bar informal-ex pane-contacts between agency officials and interested outsiders to discuss pending business. S 5 coasted to passage on a 94-0 vote with virtually no opposition on the floor. The action followed by one day Senate adoption of a resolution (S Res 9) similarly opening most meetings of Senate committees and House-Senate conferences. House committee meetings have been open since 1973. (Vote 467, Weekly Report p. 2425; Senate rules change, Weekly Report p. 2413) In the only other recorded vote on the bill, the senate before passage rejected, 36-57, an amendment offered by Jacob K. Javits (R N.Y.) to exempt most meetings of the Federal Reserve Board from the bill's provisions. To ex- empt that agency, however sensitive its deliberations on monetary policy, would invite demands for similar exemp- tions by other agencies, supporters of the bill argued. (Vote 466, Weekly Report p. 2425) Provisions As passed by the Senate, S 5: ? Required the Federal Election Commission and all agencies headed by two or more persons appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to open all meetings to the public unless a majority voted to close a meeting. ? Defined a meeting as deliberations where at least a quorum of members meet to conduct or dispose of official business. ? Specified that a meeting could he closed only for dis- cussions of the following 10 matters: 1) national defense or foreign policy; 2) agency personnel rules and practices; 3) information whose disclosure would constitute an un- warranted invasion of personal privacy; 4) accusations of a crime or formal censure; 5) law enforcement investigatory records; 6) trade secrets or financial or commercial infor- mation obtained under a pledge of confidentiality or where disclosure could damage competitive position; 7) informa- tion whose premature disclosure could lead to significant financial speculation, endanger the stability of a financial institution or frustrate a proposed agency action; 8) bank examination records and similar financial audits; 9) the agency's involvement in federal or state civil actions or similar legal proceedings where there is a public record; 10) information required by other laws to be kept confidential. ? Allowed a meeting to be closed by a majority record vote of all members, barring use of proxies; permitted a single vote to be taken to close a series of meetings on the same subject to be held within a 30-day period. ? Allowed a person affected by the deliberations of a meeting to request that it be closed. Voter Registration by Mail The House Administration Committee Nov. 7 ordered reported, by a 17-6 vote, a bill (HR 1686) to es- tablish a nationwide postcard voter registration system for federal elections. The action revived legisla- tion that was killed in the House in 1974. (1974 Almanac p. 659) The committee also used the bill to change the procedure Congress follows in reviewing regulations of the Federal Election Commission. Under an amend- ment included in the measure, the House and Senate no longer would have to vote to disapprove commission regulations to reject them. Instead,- Congress could veto commission regulations by not acting on them within 30 legislative days. If a proposed regulation was not approved, it would be sent back to the commission. The effect of that change would be to lift from the House and Senate the burden of having to veto com- mission regulations in recorded votes. (Federal Elec- tion Commission, Weekly Report p. 2073) As approved by the committee, the postcard voter registration bill would establish a Voter Registration Administration within the Federal Election Commis- sion to provide information to state officials concern- ing voter registration by mail and election problems in general. The bill would require the Postal Service to dis- tribute registration forms to every postal address and residence at least once every two years and prior' to every special federal election. The bill further required that distribution of registration cards be made at no charge. The committee authorized tip to $50-million for the registration program. ? Permitted agencies that regularly meet in closed ses- sion to devise general regulations to expedite closed meetings. ? Required advance public notice of the date, place and subject matter of all meetings. ? Required agencies to keep transcripts of closed meetings and make available to the public portions not ex- empted from disclosure. ? Provided for district court enforcement and review of the open-meeting requirements and placed the burden of proof in disputes upon the agency. ? Prohibited ex paste communications between agency officials and outsiders affected by pending agency business, required an official to make public any such contact and made cr paste communications grounds for ruling against a party in an agency proceeding. ? Required each agency to report annually to Congress tle numbers of open and closed meetings, reasons for clos- in;r meetings and descriptions of any litigation against an agency under the law. e Required an agency to disclose its vote to close a ? Provided that the bill's provisions-would take effect meeting \v PipraEedi: Ar Rele ser2AQr1/ A7ribGI A-RDR7(7UQ014.:4PM OMAQQ1r e3 agencies to make public written explanation of its decision to close. proposed open-meeting regulations before that date. Approved For Release 2001/09/07 : CIA-RDP77M00144R000800030011-2 Government Operations - 2 Background The "Government in the Sunshine Act," as S 5 was en- titled, was first introduced in the Senate by Lawton Chiles (D Fla.) in 1972. Government Operations subcommittees held two sets of hearings in 1974, and the legislation was reported by the full committee July 31, 1975 (S Rept 94- 354). As reported by the Government Operations Com- mittee, S 5 included two sections. Title I required all con- gressional sessions-House and Senate-to be open. Title II contained the provisions affecting executive agencies. Because Title I pertained to Senate operations, the bill subsequently was referred to the Rules and Administration Committee, which reported an amended version of the measure Sept. 18 (S Rcpt 94-381). The Rules Committee stripped Title I from the hill, then reported instead a separate resolution essentially allowing Senate committees to choose their own open-meeting rules. The Senate Nov. 5 rejected that version in favor of a broader Chiles-Roth (R Del.) resolution (S Res 9) opening committee meetings as a general rule. (Earlier stories, Weekly Report p. 2265, 2125) The open-meeting provisions of S 5 would apply to 47 executive agencies, according to the Justice Department, ranging from major regulatory bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission down to the more obscure National Council on Quality in Education. They would not apply to executive departments and other cabinet-level agencies headed by a single chief executive. The bill's ex parte provision stemmed from a 20-year effort to limit secret contacts with officials by lawyers, lob- byists and others interested in agency proceedings. It followed closely a draft proposed by the American Bar Association in 1974. The provision applied to all agencies, multi- or single-headed. The House Government Operations Subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights began hearings on its own sunshine bills (IIR 9868, IIR 10315) on Nov. 6. Floor Action Although a parade of agencies had testified before the Government Operations Committee against S 5, the bill en- countered no outright opposition on the Senate floor. Sup- porters attributed the lack of opposition to a reluctance of senators to line up against open government, a national an- tipathy to bureaucracy and the ice-breaking adoption of S Res 9 the day before. "Forty-eight states have enacted some type of open meeting provision," Chiles declared in opening debate. "Now that, Congress had taken the lead by opening its own doors, I feel that we are in an excellent position to request that executive agencies follow suit." Opponents of S 5 in hearings had complained that open meetings would disrupt proceedings, inhibit free discussion and, by presenting just one stage to the public, cast a dis- torted image of agency procedures. Further, agency of- ficials said, permitting affected parties to observe deliberations would subject officials to political pressure. attend meetings and force better reasoned decisions. The long-term benefit could be clearer public understanding of agency procedures and less distrust of government in general, supporters said. Federal Reserve Board The only real debate came on the Javits amendment, rejected 36-57, to exempt the Federal Reserve Board from the act except when the board was considering consumer protection matters. While making it clear that he sup- ported the bill's over-all intent, Javits. said he had been per- suaded by Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur F. Burns that S 5 would open the monetary policy-making process to scrutiny and abuse by speculators. While the bill made special provisions for financial matters, Javits said,. dis- closure requirements still might lead to disclosure of infer- nration too sensitive for the public domain. Chiles opposed making special exception for the Federal Reserve, saying provisions of S 5 had been tailored to meet its security needs. Chiles contended that Burns' primary concern was that the bill reflected adversely on the integrity of the. board. "No agency of the people," Chiles argued, "should be exempted, just written out, because of the fact that it is supposed to be sacrosanct...." Other Amendments S 5 supporters did make one concession to the Federal Reserve Board. By voice vote, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by William V. Roth Jr. (R Del.) to change the wording in the exemptions to allow closed meetings if there was a prospect of "significant," rather than "serious," financial speculation. The Senate also adopted by voice vote an amendment by Edward M. Kennedy (D Mass.) to bring the bill into con- formity with the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (PI. 79-404). 1 -By Ted Vaden House Passage: WHITE HOUSE SCIENCE ADVISER With strong bipartisan support, the House Nov. 6 passed a bill (HR 10230) that would revive the position of presidential science adviser that former President Nixon abolished in 1973. President Ford supported the bill, and White House aides worked closely with the Science and Technology Committee to develop the compromise measure. The bill culminated several years of committee study of what federal scientific activities should accomplish, how they should be coordinated and what sort of policy direc- tion the White House should provide. In addition to reviv- ing the White I-Iow e science advisory structure, the bill would set forth a statement of national science policy goals and create a tempori ry committee to look at issues such as the possible creatio r of a cabinet-level Department of Science. But supporters of S 5 maintained that the experience Background of states and other bodies with open meetings had dispelled .. The position of presidential science adviser was es. most such concerns. On the contrary, they said, the tablished in the lac 1950s, partly in response t.- presence. of the public would promote better debate en- tcchnolo rical adv u e' 1.y viet Pinion. In an effort courage ccApprsive oriR&LdaMnMAiQi9,~flh7egt RDP77t AORPA* P 9 r' -resident Nixon abolish,