Washington, D.C. — Today the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 469, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017, by a vote of 15-8. This bill will limit the manipulation of lawsuits, sue-and-settle decrees, and settlement agreements that force regulators to issue new regulations.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.), chief sponsor of the legislation, praised today’s Committee passage of the bill.
Chairman Goodlatte: “This legislation is a commonsense solution to curbing regulatory abuse within the federal government. By ensuring greater transparency and accountability, this legislation cuts down on litigation abuse by pro-regulation plaintiffs that often results in more regulation without adequate notice to or process for the affected parties. The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act is another step the Committee is taking to reform the regulatory system of the United States, ensuring that America’s job creators and innovators aren’t buried under mountains of job-killing regulations.”
Congressman Collins: “It’s past time to deliver transparency to the relationship between federal agencies and special interest groups who have improperly used lawsuits to influence the regulatory landscape. As the Judiciary Committee passes the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, President Trump and Secretary Pruitt have also committed publicly to ending sue and settle maneuvers. Together, I believe we can replace mischief with transparency in the federal rulemaking process and bring relief to the American workers and families who have suffered as a result of these back-door deals.”
The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act specifically provides the following:
• Greater transparency. Agencies must publish sue-and-settle notices of intent to sue, complaints, decrees, settlements, and attorneys’ fee awards and report on them to Congress.
• Greater rights for regulated entities and the public. Agencies cannot propose sue-and-settle decrees and settlements to the courts until parties affected by the proposed regulations can intervene and participate in settlement negotiations and the proposed decrees and settlements are published for public notice and comment.
• Greater judicial scrutiny. Courts weighing proposed decrees and settlements must assure compliance with normal rulemaking procedures and account for agencies’ competing mandatory duties not within the litigation.
• Greater accountability. The Attorney General must certify to the court his or her approval of proposed decrees that convert discretionary authorities into mandatory duties.
• Greater flexibility for new administrations. Courts are allowed to review any new administration’s motion to modify a consent decree in light of changed facts and circumstances or competing duties.