The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1493, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2013 by a vote of 17-12. The Sunshine Act will curb one of the worst regulatory abuses: the manipulation of lawsuits and sue-and-settle decrees that force regulators to issue new regulations. This bill is one of several bills that the House Judiciary Committee has introduced to reform the United States' regulatory system.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.), chief sponsor of the Sunshine Act, praised today's Committee vote.
Chairman Goodlatte: "The Sunshine Act is an effective and balanced solution to growing regulatory abuse in Washington. Far too often, ligitation by pro-regulatory plaintiffs forces federal agencies to issue new rules. The Sunshine Act puts an end to the abuse of this practice. It assures that those to be regulated have a fair opportunity to participate in the resolution of litigation that affects them, and in turn that courts have all the information they need before they approve proposed decrees and settlements. It provides much-needed transparency on the ways that agencies conduct their business and it is an incredibly necessary step to reforming the United States' regulatory system."
Congressman Collins: "In this current economic climate, this legislation provides certainty and relief to job creators. H.R. 1493 sheds a much needed light into the backroom deals between special interest groups and unelected bureaucrats, and I am proud to be the sponsor. By reforming our nation's regulatory system through this legislation, we can jumpstart the engine of our economy. Increasing transparency in consent decrees and settlements improves access and encourages public participation. H.R. 1493 restores balance to the rulemaking process and ensures the scales aren't tipped in the favor of any one group or party."
The Sunshine Act specially 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 de novo any new administration's motion to modify a consent decree in light of changed facts and circumstances or competing duties.