Barton seeking to send FCC to reform school?


Well, not exactly, but Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Joe Barton (R-TX) is circulating a bill that would try to add transparency and enhanced public participation in FCC proceedings. Its short name is the “FCC PROCESS Act” – and there’s a reason each letter of “process” is capitalized. The full name of the bill is “FCC Procedural Reform for Openness and Clarity Encouraging Sensible Solutions Act.”

The Barton measure comes as an investigation into FCC procedures has been in progress under the leadership of Bart Stupak (D-MI), with highly interested observer John Dingell (D-MI) playing close attention.

Among other things, it directs the FCC to make sure that anything it decides is in force within six months. But before anything is decided, the FCC would be required to make sure the public has access to “the specific language” of any measure to be acted upon, with 30 days for comment and 30 more for reply comments; and to make sure commissioners themselves have adequate time to apprehend the details of any proposal before being required to vote on it. It also includes requirements that key members of the two congressional Commerce committees are kept in the loop.

RBR/TVBR observation: This measure addresses things like the 6/2/03 meeting wherein a massive omnibus deregulatory measure was sprung on the public and voted on all at once. It also addresses complaints of commissioners currently serving with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin that occasionally items to be voted on are not revealed to them until the last moment. Barton most likely is trying to offer a minimalist reform of FCC procedure, so it will be very interesting to see what kind of measures committee Democrats may have in mind.