Sunshine and Sunset Laws

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Sunshine and Sunset Laws
US Government

Sunshine and Sunset Laws

Sunshine laws created by different states are based on the Sunshine Act passed by Congress in 1976. In the United States, for the first time, the Sunshine Act requires that “multi-headed federal agencies” or those agencies that are headed by a committee instead of an individual such as the Securities and Exchange Commission hold their meetings regularly in public (Bardes et al., 2011, p. 423). As the term implies, the government wants more transparency, as well as, give interested parties the opportunities to observe or participate if possible. Moreover, these agencies are also required to provide public notice of these meetings in advance to allow people to take note of the agenda and be able to prepare questions if they have any. According to the Act, the term “meetings” encompass any formal or informal gathering of agency members and this includes even conference calls (Bardes, et al., 2011). The only exceptions to this rule of openness are meetings pertaining to court cases and personnel issues, among others. Currently, sunshine laws exist at all levels of government in practically every state. Nevertheless, each state has its own version of sunshine laws. For example, in California, open meetings must be held within the boundaries of the jurisdiction of the organization (BoardSource, 2010).

In Virginia, there are about 20 exceptions to sunshine laws. In Colorado, electronic mail, if used to discuss public concerns, also constitutes as a meeting (BoardSource, 2010). It must be noted that states such a Florida and Utah have had sunshine laws even before the passing of the Sunshine Act (McLendon & Hearn, 2006). The purpose of sunshine laws is to promote public access to information especially when it comes to decision-making processes that the government takes. Sunshine laws also aim to improve these decision-making processes by allowing public access (ACUS, n.d.). Among the most...
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