CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1320 on Monday, July 26, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO).
H.R. 1320 would require any appointee to a federal advisory committee be made without regard to political affiliation or political activity, unless such consideration is required by federal statute. The bill also mandates that federal agencies obtain disclosures from prospective committee members of actual or potential candidates with a conflict of interest that may impact the advisory committee. In addition, the bill requires greater transparency and oversight of such advisory committees.
Ensuring Independent Advice and Expertise:
All appointments to advisory committees shall be made without regard to political affiliation or political activity, unless required by federal statute.
The head of each agency shall ensure that no individual appointed to serve on an advisory committee that reports to the agency has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the functions to be performed by the advisory committee, unless the head of the agency determines that the need for the individual’s services outweighs the potential impacts of the conflict of interest.
The head of each agency shall require that each individual the agency appoints or intends to appoint to serve on an advisory committee as a representative informs the agency official responsible for appointing the individual in writing of any potential conflict of interest.
The bill requires that no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this act, the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, in consultation with the Administrator of General Services, shall identify the method by which individuals must disclose conflicts and the period of time for which a representative or special government employee.
Preventing Efforts to Circumvent the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Public Disclosure:
H.R. 1320 would require any individual who is not full-time or permanent part-time officer or employee of the federal government to be regarded as a member of a committee if the individual regularly attends and participates in committee meetings as if the individual were a member, even if the individual does not have the right to vote or veto the advice or recommendations of the advisory committee.
Increasing Transparency of Advisory Committee:
The head of the agency to which the advisory committee reports shall make publicly available in accordance with the charter of the advisory committee and a description of the process used to establish and appoint the members of the advisory committee, including the process for identifying a prospective member.
Comptroller General Review and Reports:
The Comptroller General of the United States shall review compliance by agencies with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, including whether agencies are appropriately appointing advisory committee members as either special government employees or representatives.
H.R. 1320 would amend the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to require agencies to make more information about FACA activities available to the public, including transcripts of meetings. The legislation also would require additional reports to the Congress by the Government Accountability Office concerning the appointment of advisory committee members.
Advisory committees provide the executive branch with advice on complex issues such, from things such as terrorist attacks, to health standards. There are currently more than 900 advisory committees in 2008, with over 64,000 members.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act was enacted in 1972 in response to increasing number of advisory committees, but little oversight or accountability. The original law was designed to increase accountability, provide oversight, and independent from special interests.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing H.R. 1320 would cost $20 million in 2010 and $120 million over the 2010-2014 periods, subject to appropriation.