While moving through the thick heat in Washington, D.C., en route to a hearing last month, I imagined whiling away the hours on a cool, clean beach in a bikini. The thought provided some relief although quite honestly you\u2019d never catch me in a two-piece bathing suit. It\u2019s not a matter of vanity or modesty. It\u2019s because my unadulterated Irish skin is overly sun-sensitive. Just a bit of exposure and my skin fries. Thus, my attire in and out of the water is more akin to a Burka than a bikini. While sitting at the hearing on global warming legislation in the Rayburn House Office Building, I saw up close how most federal lawmakers also shield themselves from the sunshine. But, it is the kind of vitamin D required for a healthy democracy. When journalists talk about \u201csunshine\u201d we refer to letting the public in on government business. This freedom of information \u201csunshine\u201d is the best disinfectant. During the day-long D.C. hearing, legislators revealed about as much as a Burka-clad woman. Subcommittee chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) maintained a placid and polite demeanor during the hearing on greenhouse gas legislation. Real action and meaningful exchanges were substituted with predictable scripted blather. As a California reporter accustomed to more open politics, hearings inside the beltway made me long for the West Coast sun--albeit with sunscreen in hand. California law requires open government under the Bagley Keene Open Meetings Act and the state Public Records Act. Meaty debate and meaningful exchange also are largely missing at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearings. During monthly meetings, FERC chair Joe Kelliher commends his staff\u2019s work. Yet the press office keeps a tight lid on what is going on behind the scenes. Except for occasional cries from Kelliher\u2019s toddler, nothing appears to be out of order. Canned presentations ensure that unanimous opinions ensue. That keeps the commission from drawing attention to itself, particularly in an election year. The lack of transparency is unfortunately not limited to hearings at FERC and on the Hill. It is far worse at the executive level. Last week, a 158-page report by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency staff was belatedly slipped under a White-House Burka. It revealed a range of global warming impacts--from increased heat waves, fires, and pollution, to decreased agricultural yield. It was released only after EPA announced it would not regulate carbon emissions. Sometimes the federal cover ups are so bad they\u2019re funny. The most absurd was when former Attorney General John Ashcroft had the exposed breast of the \u201cSpirit of Justice\u201d statute displayed in the Department of Justice covered by a blue drape for three-and-a-half years. Most politico veils at the nation\u2019s Capitol, however, are not that amusing or harmless. While they may protect lawmakers\u2019 and regulators\u2019 skin, the drapes also shield them from the hard reality outside. That includes rising threats from climbing greenhouse gas emissions and energy prices. It made me wish I was 16 again so I could wear less than a bikini and streak through the dim federal halls. While we in California may be considered nuts and fruits by those in the rest of the country--we have a reasonably progressive energy reality. Back from the beltway, however, I was quickly reminded that Burkas are also more popular than bikinis here. Although California is the Golden State, we still have a lack of \u201csunshine\u201d because politics are politics. Consider the California Air Resources Board supposed unveiling of its scoping plan for the state\u2019s climate protection plan, AB 32. During the press conference, chair Mary Nichols revealed few specifics. An economic analysis of the draft plan\u2019s potential impacts awaits. Trying to find sunshine in the journalistic sense, it took me half a dozen calls to find out how much power the Department of Water Resources\u2019 State Water Project dropped to offset soaring demand during last week\u2019s heat wave. During queries to DWR and the grid operator, I was told confidentiality of the demand-response contracts between utilities and demand response providers prohibited revealing the numbers. Only after the fact, would the numbers be released. Unless there are lawsuits by the ever weakened big media, policymaking gets quickly covered up. DWR and other state agencies\u2019 information polices are required to be more bikini than Burka. Former Governor Gray Davis was forced by a successful lawsuit under open records law to reveal the hidden $42 billion of energy contracts signed during the 2000-01 energy crisis. Investor-owned utilities too veil the terms of their renewable power purchase agreements. Since the state launched its renewable portfolio standard program in 2003 the percentage of \u201cgreen\u201d energy supplied declined. It\u2019s dropped from 14 percent to 12.7 percent. The growing shortfall stems from what a California Public Utilities Commission analyst calls \u201cdifficulties in project development.\u201d But utility customers, and even lawmakers, will never be able to understand the difficulties because they cannot examine the contract terms, despite the publicly regulated nature of the monopoly utility business. Contrast that with the rising renewable levels at some public munis, which hold open meetings, as required under the Brown Act. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District\u2019s green power use rose from 5 percent to 18 percent over the past three years. At the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, renewable energy use is rising too. The muni has gone from 5 percent in 2006 to 8 percent. It is expected to reach 9 percent later this year when a new wind project opens. While my covering up protects me from blisters and blotchy, damaged, Irish skin, I do wonder about vitamin D deficiency. I also have serious concerns about policy deficiencies. I want to see politicians, regulators, and utilities strip off their ever-increasing redacted-ness. The public interest outweighs whatever secrecy is deemed required behind closed doors. Transparency and non-scripted meetings are needed to protect the sunshine critical to the health and well being of our state and our democracy.