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Government in the Sunshine Act

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Effective  September 13, 1976
Statutes at Large  90 Stat. 1241
Public law  94-409
Government in the Sunshine Act
Long title  An Act to provide that meetings of Government agencies shall be open to the public, and for other purposes.
Enacted by  the 94th United States Congress
Acts amended  Freedom of Information Act

The Government in the Sunshine Act (Pub.L. 94–409, 90 Stat. 1241, enacted September 13, 1976, 5 U.S.C. § 552b) is a U.S. law passed in 1976 that affects the operations of the federal government, Congress, federal commissions, and other legally constituted federal bodies. It is one of a number of Freedom of Information Acts, intended to create greater transparency in government.

Contents

Effect

"The Sunshine Act provides, with ten specified exemptions, that 'every portion of every meeting of an agency shall be open to public observation.' 5 U.S.C. 552b(b) It imposes procedural requirements to ensure, inter alia [among other things], that advance notice is given to the 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, neither the openness requirement, nor the related procedural 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 Regulatory Commission, 216 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 of the 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 Sunshine Act enumerates ten 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,
  • related 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, and
  • related to the agency's participation in legal proceedings.
  • Purpose

    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 foundation 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).

    References

    Government in the Sunshine Act Wikipedia


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