Letter to the House Appropriations Committee regarding the sunshine-in-government provision

May 20, 1999

Dear Appropriations Member:

The fiscal year 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act contained a sunshine-in-government provision that would allow the American people to access the federally funded scientific data used to support regulations that have a direct impact on their lives. This sunshine law is absolutely critical in ensuring that government remains accountable to the citizens it serves. We urge you to resist any legislative efforts to weaken or repeal this important law.

Honest concerns have been raised about the viability of federally funded medical research and the privacy of personal medical information that may be part of that research. Thankfully, these concerns have already been thoroughly addressed in the provisions of the sunshine law and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under the FOIA, federally-funded research data which falls under any of nine specific categories — including privacy, trade secrets and commercial information — are exempt from public release. The FOIA provisions are specifically intended to protect the medical privacy of individuals and to protect proprietary research.

The sunshine-in-government law simply requires the Office of Management and Budget to assure that all federally funded research data produced under a grant or agreement is available to the American people through, and subject to the limitations of, the FOIA. This research is often used as the justification for rules and regulations that can have a significant impact on the economy and the health of all Americans. It is only fair in a democracy that the taxpayers who fund this research have a chance to review it to ensure that their money is being well spent and that the freedoms they must often sacrifice are worth the benefits.

Every year, the federal government considers over 4,000 regulations, some of which can cost billions. The science used to make decisions about these regulations must be of the highest quality. Accountability will go a long way towards achieving that goal.

It is possible that an amendment will be offered in the full committee markup of the Treasury-Postal that would seek to repeal or delay the implementation of the sunshine-in-government law. CSE believes the adoption of this amendment would not be in the best interests of the American people.

On behalf of CSE’s more than 250,000 members nationwide, we urge you to resist any efforts to weaken or repeal this law. If the American people are to regain trust in their government, it is critical that the sunshine-in-government law be fully implemented.


Paul Beckner