You may be familiar with the phrase ‘sunshine in government’, which refers to laws requiring transparency in government meetings and related actions. Sunshine laws require federal agencies to make meetings, deliberations, votes, and other official actions open for public participation, observation, and inspection. These laws, and related actions, promote transparency, disclosure, and engender public trust in government processes and decision making. Examples of sunshine laws are the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the aptly named Government in the Sunshine Act, passed by Congress way back in the 1970s.
We highlight these laws, and their purpose, since some of the usual federal government reports that shine sunlight on federal regulatory priorities has, well, been behind some large clouds for a while now. For example, the U.S. DOT’s monthly “Significant Rulemakings Report” has not been updated since February 2020—15 months ago. For more than a decade, this report was updated and posted by USDOT every month like clockwork. Without it, it’s very difficult to know which rules DOT is working on and prioritizing for near-term action. The same is true for a larger “Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” which has historically been published every 6 months (Fall and Spring of each year). The last such agenda was published in late Fall 2020, and the Biden Administration has not yet published its first full federal regulatory agenda. Without these usual sources of information on federal rulemaking priorities, regulated industries like trucking are left guessing about policies and actions government agencies may pursue. Trucking has always been a highly adaptable and resilient industry. The pandemic is further proof of this fact. There’s little doubt trucking will adapt to whatever policy changes the Biden Administration pursues. For planning purposes, it would be nice to know what policy issues are at the top of the list, along with a timeline for action. To be sure, we will report on these priorities when the sun starts shining again.