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FACT SHEET: H.R. 469, THE STOP SETTLEMENT SLUSH FUNDS ACT OF 2017

Oct 25, 2017
Fact Sheets

H.R. 469 Is an Assault on Americans Health, Safety, and Privacy

 

H.R. 469, the “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017,” would significantly delay the process for ensuring that statutory deadlines established by Congress are enforced to protect Americans from serious harms such as dirty air and water, unsafe products, and reckless behavior by large financial institutions. The bill jeopardizes public health and safety by: (1) adding barriers to the use of consent decrees that allow agencies to hold polluters and other wrongdoers accountable; (2) adding opportunities for regulated entities to use lawsuits to delay agency rules; (3) overriding privacy protections for victims of government misconduct; and (4) interfering with the enforcement discretion of agencies, raising separation of powers concerns. 

           

  • Imposes Barriers to Enforcing the Law while Allowing Industry to Intervene in Enforcement Suits. Title I imposes numerous burdensome procedural requirements on agencies and courts that will hamstring, or discourage, the use of consent decrees and settlements that ensure enforcement of the law. This title purports to address so-called “sue and settle” actions in which a settlement is reached between a public interest plaintiff and an allegedly sympathetic federal agency to circumvent the rulemaking system.  But as the Government Accountability Office found in December 2014 and February 2017, there is no evidence to support this faulty assumption.  These lawsuits are critical to upholding the rule of law by ensuring the timely enforcement of deadlines established by Congress. 

 

  • Overrides Personal Privacy Protections for Victims of Government Misconduct. Title II incudes an override to Exemption 6 of the Freedom of Information Act, which protects against the disclosure of information that would constitute an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” As a result, the Treasury Department would be required to bypass the Privacy Act of 1974 and publish personally identifiable information about individuals on the Internet—including their names as well as the facts of potentially sensitive legal matters—simply because they were harmed by government misconduct and their claim or settlement was paid from the Judgment Fund. Needlessly publishing this sensitive information on the Internet in an easily searchable format could make individuals more vulnerable to fraudsters, data brokers, identity thieves, and other predators.

 

  • Intrudes on Enforcement Discretion and Raises Separation of Powers Concerns. Title III amends current law to facilitate the ability of the House Majority to either intervene as a party or appear as amicus curiae in pending cases to defend or assert the constitutionality of a federal law where the Department of Justice has determined that it will not defend the law’s constitutionality or will contest the law’s constitutionality.  Title III was introduced as a standalone bill on October 16, 2017 with no hearing, markup, or other formal vetting.  The bill appears to be unnecessary and may raise separation-of-powers concerns.

 

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards—consisting of more than 150 labor, consumer, and environmental organizations—strongly opposes this bill because it is “an assault on the public protections and safeguards required by the laws Congress passed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans.”  The Obama Administration issued a veto threat when a previous version of this legislation was considered in the 114th Congress. 

 

Organizations Opposed to H.R. 469

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, consisting of over 150 labor, consumer, and environmental organizations, including:

 

AFL-CIO

Alliance for Justice

American Association of University Professors

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

American Lung Association

American Rivers

American Values Campaign

Americans for Financial Reform

ATTIC, Inc.

BlueGreen Alliance

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform (CCAR)

Center for American Progress

 

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Effective Government

Center for Food Safety

Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention

Center for Independent Living

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers Union

CounterCorp

Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice

Demos

Economic Policy Institute

Edmonds Institute

Environment America

 

Farmworker Justice

Free Press

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)

League of Conservation Voters

Main Street Alliance

National Association of Consumer Advocates

U.S. PIRG

Union of Concerned Scientists

Union Plus

United Food and Commercial Workers Union

United Steelworkers

 

 

A coalition of 86 environmental and public-interest organizations, including:

 

AFL-CIO

AFSCME

Alaska Wilderness League

Alliance for Justice

American Association for Justice

American Rivers

California Coastkeeper Alliance

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Justice & Democracy

 

Consumer Federation of America

Coosa River Basin Initiative

Coosa Riverkeeper

Crystal Coast Waterkeeper

Defenders of Wildlife

Earthjustice

Economic Policy Institute Policy Center

Edisto Riverkeeper

Emerald Coastkeeper

Inc.

 

Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Law & Policy Center

Friends for Our Riverfront

Friends of the Earth

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

National Consumers League

National Employment Law Project