Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer’s, R-Hoover, Settlement Agreement Information Database Act (SAID Act), H.R. 995, passed the House of Representatives unanimously. The legislation would bring clarity and accountability to the litigation activity of federal agencies.
“Currently, there is no uniform standard for recordkeeping across federal agencies,” Palmer said. “Most of the public’s access to federal settlement agreement information is primarily issued by press release. This lack of transparency frequently leaves the public and elected officials in the dark about costs and outcomes. The SAID Act would provide overdue transparency and accountability standards to federal settlement agreements.”
Palmer said that when Gov. Bob Riley became governor he saw the budget and asked why the state was paying so much money for legal fees and was told that it was because of all of the consent decrees that the state was under. Palmer said that more transparency is needed in these agreements.
Government attorneys negotiate these agreements, which are binding, without the legislatures or Congress having any input, and in some cases little knowledge of what is even happening.
The SAID Act would establish a centralized, public database that contains basic information about settlement agreements and consent decrees entered into by federal agencies. In the case of a confidential agreement, the SAID Act would require the agency to issue a public statement that justifies the nondisclosure.
The SAID Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 418 to 0.
Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District.