NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
SECOND REGULAR MEETING
Wednesday, August 20, 1997
The Commission met in the Chesapeake Room, Watergate Hotel, 2650 Virginia Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., at 9:00 a.m., Kay C. James, Chairperson, presiding.
KAY C. JAMES, Chairperson
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Good morning. It's my pleasure to begin the second day of our second regular meeting of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, and welcome back to those who were here yesterday, and welcome to those who joined us for the first time today.
I'm also pleased to note that C Span has joined us for at least part of the day. As a big C Span fan, I appreciate the work that they do in terms of informing the public and allowing the public to see their government at work.
This morning we will continue our discussion of the statement of principles and proposed rules by Commissioners, as well as the tentative work plan.
We will first turn our attention this morning to the rules, which will govern the process and the procedures for the Commission. Yesterday, at Mr. Loescher's request, we adopted interim rules that basically say that we intend to follow the federal rules contained in our enabling legislation, other applicable federal laws and regulations, and Robert's Rules of Order.
This essentially is the process we've been informally following since our inception.
At our last meeting, Commissioner Lanni submitted a statement of principles for the Commission's consideration. Since that time, Commissioners Bible, Lanni, and Dobson each submitted a set of rules for our operation. Each of those sets of rules were sent to you for your consideration, for your review, and I hope that you are prepared to discuss them this morning.
Before we get into the specifics of these proposals, I want to spend a few minutes talking about general and broad principles. It is the chair's opinion that most of these rules are unnecessary, some redundant, and several illegal.
Nevertheless, it is the prerogative of this Commission to adopt such rules as it deems necessary for the conduct of the Commission's business. As we do this, I want to encourage the Commission to keep the comments that were made yesterday in mind.
The point of additional rules should be to clarify the process questions, prevent delays, and enhance the efficiency and operation of the Commission. In short, we should follow a common sense rule of reasonableness so that we can get our job done in a timely and thorough fashion.
General Henry Robert noted in his now famous Robert's Rules, "The great purpose of all rules and forms is to subserve the will of the assembly rather than to restrain it, to facilitate and not to obstruct the expression of their deliberate sense."
To understand and evaluate these rules, staff has met with or spoken to the following federal agencies: the Senate Ethics Committee, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, the Office of Government Ethics, the Committee Management Division of GSA, the General Accounting Office, and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as several attorneys with considerable public sector experience.
I personally have spent considerable time learning my role and responsibilities as chair of this Commission. Some of it is clear from the enabling legislation, some from FACA, and other parts of various federal rules and practices.
There are some individuals who might be tempted to think that being the chair gives you power and makes your job easier. That's very far from the truth. Instead it imposes enormous requirements that are accompanied by legal liability for failure to insure compliance.
Rules adopted by the Commission may not contradict the chair's responsibilities. One of my responsibilities, as discussed yesterday, is to decide rules of order and what is within the Commission's authorization.
Mr. Snowden noted yesterday that there is no oversight authority within the executive branch of government for this Commission. We are, however, accountable to the American people through Congress.
If there are questions here today or in the future that cannot be resolved and the Commission is at an impasse, I can go to Congress and ask that our enabling legislation be amended. This is an extraordinary route to take, but one which I am willing to do if necessary.
Principal among those responsibilities is my duty to insure that the meetings are conducted in full compliance with federal laws, particularly those that relate to protecting the public's right to observe and participate in our deliberations.
It is my opinion that many of the proposed rules contradict federal laws and procedures and will prevent the meaningful participation of the American people.
Other rules as proposed simply restate the law. In addition to being unnecessary and essentially wasting our time, this also creates an opportunity to dilute or complicate the original intent of the law.
Let me give you some examples. Several of the rules are related to information to be withheld from the public. While there are clearly some areas where information may not be disclosed, the proposed rules extend this prohibition to information which should be available for public inspection.
Additionally, several rules would create restrictions or permit far too many opportunities to prevent the public and media from participating in the Commission's deliberations.
Specifically regarding the media, the rules would create burdens and limitations that infringe upon their legally protected rights and access. Rules related to witness testimony would require some, but not all, individuals to testify under oath. Rules related to the operation of the Commission would limit the ability of the chair and the Executive Director to effectively manage the Commission staff.
Rules related to internal communication would require the Executive Director to report any and all communication with Commissioners to every other Commissioner, essentially reducing a professional staff into individuals who will spend all of their time photocopying thousands of pages and shipping them back and forth among Commissioners.
Now, if the point of the rules is to keep us in court, tie the hands of the staff, an prevent the public and media from knowing what we are doing, then these are very effective rules.
However, I think I know the Commissioners well enough at this point to know that this is not their intent. It is important as we consider potential rules that we consider the spirit and the intent of the Federal Advisory Commission Act and the Sunshine Act. It is intended to protect individual Commissioners and Commissioners by establishing certain process requirements, but the real beneficiaries of these acts are the American people who are guaranteed by these laws that public policy will not be discussed or developed secretly or without their input.
That does not mean, however, that confidential information, trade secrets, or personal information will be released or discussed by the Commission publicly. Congress was quite clear on this issue.
I've been involved in the public policy process for many years now and have worked on many complicated issues. I've always found it to be beneficial to be as inclusive and open to the public as possible. After all, we are debating issues that will ultimately be decided by the American people.
While it sometimes makes the process more difficult, certainly the part about dealing with the press in the long run makes all of our work much easier. I believe that the rules should focus on how we can provide the American people and Congress with what they ask for, and that not in any way or any different ways limit their understanding by limiting the access of the media.
I am certain that all of the Commissioners would agree that it is crucial that we protect the right of the public to observe, comment, and otherwise participate in this process. We welcome it. We look forward to all of the information that we will receive.
We have a lot of work to get done in a very short period of time. I neither want to belabor these points or ignore the interest of the Commission in considering these rules.
The American people, the press, and the Congress are watching carefully to see if we are serious about considering the issues with which we were charged.
I was reminded of this while reviewing the comments made during the debate in the U.S. Senate. Senator Reid noted that he would be steadfast in his monitoring of the Commission's environment and agenda, and Senator Coats made clear his willingness to amend the legislation if he thought that we were dodging the issues.
We have an obligation to all of those individuals and to the state legislators, city councils, and tribes who are looking to this Commission for information.