House Passes “Sue and Settle” Transparency Legislation
January 15, 2016 •
On Jan. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 712, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, by a 244-173 vote. The bill, which addresses “sue and settle” litigation, would require that consent decrees and settlement agreements be filed only after interested parties have had the opportunity to intervene in the litigation and join settlement negotiations.
ACA championed passage of the bill as part of a coalition effort organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and hopes the bill would stop a more and more common practice of driving the regulatory process via “sue and settle” litigation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that in ‘sue and settle,’ “special interests sue federal agencies like EPA that settle the cases by agreeing to issue new regulations and be bound by court order. Neither the public nor those who will be affected by the new rules have any idea what happened until the court order is announced.”
H.R. 712 includes two formerly independent regulatory reform bills: H.R. 1759, requiring federal agencies to submit monthly a list of rules expected to be proposed or finalized in the following year to the White House Office of Management and Budget; and H.R. 690, which would require agencies to post brief descriptions (100 words or less) online of any proposed rule.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act would bring transparency and accountability to the process by requiring agencies to publicly post and report to Congress information on sue-and-settle complaints, consent decrees and settlement agreements. Consent decrees and settlement agreements could be filed only after being published for at least 60 days.
Contact ACA’s Javaneh Nekoomaram for more information.