Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Let FCC Commissioners Meet in Private

Bill has bipartisan, bicameral support

File this one under "It makes sense, so why isn't it the law already?" department. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are reintroducing a bill to allow three or more Federal Communications Commissioners to meet in private, as long as no official agency action is taken.

That's right. Under current law, something known as the "sunshine" rule prohibits more than two FCC commissioners from talking to each other outside of a public meeting.

The FCC Collaboration Act was reintroduced Wednesday in the House by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Mike Doyle (D-Penn.). Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) plan to introduce the Senate counterpart Thursday.

Rep. Shimkus summed it up best, calling the sunshine rule "ridiculous."

"If the FCC is expected to tackle some of the nation's most pressing communications issues, commissioners must have the ability to communicate freely," said Eshoo, ranking member of the subcommittee on communications and technology. "Simple collaboration, discussion of issues and shared expertise outside an official setting are essential in order for the commission to keep up with the rapidly changing telecommunications landscape."

The bill got sidelined last year when it was tucked in as a provision to a larger bill on FCC reform that Dems did not support. Otherwise, modifying the sunshine rule is something both sides of the aisle support.