House Passes Collins Bill to Stop Sue-and-Settle Abuse
WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 469, the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017, which Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced to stop federal agencies from establishing regulations through litigation as a means of circumventing the legislative process.
Collins managed the rule on H.R. 469 and issued the following statement in response to the bill’s passage:
“The House took action today to draw back the curtain on federal agencies that have colluded with special interest groups at the expense of American workers and families. The back-room litigation that the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies favored throughout the last administration must come to an end.
"A government by and for the people has no business allowing unelected bureaucrats to redraft laws behind closed doors, and I introduced the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act to end this practice decisively,” said Collins.
This bill's passage comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision last week to end the sue-and-settle arrangements pursued by the Obama Administration. Collins praised this decision, which reflects the principles outlined in the Sunshine Act and underscores the need for Congress to cement the Trump Administration's move as law that would apply to future administrations.
H.R. 469 will go to the Senate for consideration.
The Sunshine Act inhibits the ability of federal agencies to participate in back-door sue-and-settle arrangements with special interest groups, which circumvent established regulatory processes.
Federal agencies like the EPA have increasingly turned to consent decrees as a means of realigning regulatory priorities and establishing new rules that affect American citizens. Agencies can carry out sue-and-settle litigation without public notice or comment, and over 100 such regulations were handed down during the previous administration, at an estimated annual cost of more than $100 billion.
Specifically, the Sunshine Act checks federal runs around the regulatory process by:
- Providing for greater transparency by requiring agencies to publicly post and report to Congress information on sue-and-settle complaints, consent decrees and settlement agreements;
- Prohibiting the same-day filing of complaints and pre-negotiated consent decrees and settlement agreements in cases seeking to compel agency action;
- Requiring 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, and only after any proposed consent decree or settlement has been published for at least 60 days to provide for notice and comment;
- Requiring courts considering approval of consent decrees and settlement agreements to account for public comments and compliance with regulatory process statutes and executive orders;
- Making it easier for succeeding administrations to petition a court for modification of a prior administration’s consent decrees by providing for de novo review of motions to modify, if the circumstances have changed; and
- Requiring the Attorney General or, where appropriate, the defendant agency’s head, to certify to the court that he or she has approved certain proposed consent decrees.