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H.R. 3309 (112th): Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Mar 27, 2012.

Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012 - (Sec. 2) Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking unless it provides at least 30 days for comments and an additional period of at least 30 days for replies. Requires such notice to include: (1) an identification of a notice of inquiry, a prior notice of proposed rulemaking, or a notice on a petition for rulemaking issued by the FCC during the preceding three-year period of which such notice is a logical outgrowth or an identification of a court order during the preceding three-year period in response to which such notice is being issued; or (2) a finding that the proposed rule or amendment will not impose additional burdens on industry or consumers or that good cause exists that a notice of inquiry is impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.

Requires further that such a notice include: (1) the specific language of the proposed rule or amendment, and (2) proposed performance measures in the case of proposals to create or substantially change a program activity.

Defines "program activity" as a specific activity or project as listed in the program and financing schedules of the U.S. annual budget, including any annual collection or distribution or related series of collections or distributions by the FCC of at least $100 million.

Prohibits the FCC, subject to exceptions, from adopting or amending a rule unless the specific language is a logical outgrowth of the language included in a notice of proposed rulemaking and such notice was issued during the three-year period preceding the adoption or amendment.

Requires the FCC, before adopting or amending a rule that may have an economically significant impact, to: (1) analyze the specified market failure, actual consumer harm, burden of existing regulation, or failure of public institutions that warrants the rule or amendment; and (2) determine that the benefits justify its costs.

Defines "economically significant impact" as an effect on the economy of at least $100 million annually or a material adverse effect on the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local, or tribal governments or communities.

Prohibits the adoption or amendment of rules that create or substantially change a program activity unless the order contains appropriate performance measures.

Directs the FCC to establish rules for: (1) FCC Commissioners' deliberations including procedures for initiating agenda items and approving orders; and (2) the publication of the status of open rulemakings and all proposed orders, decisions, reports, or actions on circulation for review.

Establishes procedures and disclosure requirements for any closed meeting held by a bipartisan majority of Commissioners.

Requires the FCC to establish deadlines for any FCC order, decision, report, or action.

Prohibits the FCC, without providing an opportunity for public review, from relying on unpublished reports to Congress or ex parte FCC communications or filings under specified circumstances. Sets forth a good cause exception when publication or notice is impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.

Directs the FCC to publish on its website and in other required formats: (1) each order, decision, report, or action within seven days of its adoption; and (2) an anticipated release schedule for all statistical reports and reports to Congress.

Requires the FCC to notify Congress at specified time intervals when it fails to meet publication deadlines.

Requires biannual reports to Congress on the FCC's performance in conducting its proceedings and meeting the deadlines established by this Act.

Sets forth standards that restrict the FCC's authority to conditionally approve line and license transfers and other transactions. Requires any such conditional approval to be: (1) narrowly tailored to remedy a harm arising as a direct result of the specific transfer or transaction, and (2) within the FCC's jurisdiction apart from its authority to review the transaction. Prohibits the FCC from considering a voluntary commitment of a party to such transfer or transaction unless the FCC could adopt that commitment as a condition under such standards.

Directs the FCC to provide on its website: (1) information regarding the FCC's budget, appropriations, and total number of full-time equivalent employees; and (2) the FCC's annual performance plan.

Directs the FCC to complete actions necessary for the publication of required documents in the Federal Register within specified timeframes.

Directs the FCC to present information about consumer complaints in a publicly available, searchable database on its website.

Requires the FCC to inform the public about its performance and efficiency in meeting disclosure and other requirements under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including by: (1) publishing on the FCC website its logs for managing FOIA requests and associated fees, (2) releasing decisions to grant or deny requests, and (3) presenting information about the number of FOIA requests received and granted or denied by the FCC in its annual budget estimates and annual performance and financial reports.

(Sec. 3) Prohibits the FCC, in compiling its quarterly report with respect to informal consumer inquiries and complaints, from categorizing an inquiry or complaint under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (places restrictions on telephone solicitations and automatic dialing systems) as a wireline or wireless inquiry or complaint unless a wireline or wireless carrier was the subject of the inquiry or complaint.

(Sec. 4) Prohibits this Act from being construed to impede the FCC from acting in emergencies to ensure the availability of communications systems for state and local first responders and to alert the public to imminent dangerous weather conditions.