S. 3838 (111th): A bill to appropriate funds for the final settlement of lawsuits against the Federal Government for discrimination ...

...against Black Farmers and to provide relief for discrimination in a credit program of the Department of Agriculture under t

111th Congress, 2009–2010. Text as of Sep 23, 2010 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO

II

111th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3838

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

September 23, 2010

(for herself, Ms. Landrieu, and Mrs. Hagan) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance

A BILL

To appropriate funds for the final settlement of lawsuits against the Federal Government for discrimination against Black Farmers and to provide relief for discrimination in a credit program of the Department of Agriculture under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

1.

Appropriation of funds for final settlement of claims from In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation

(a)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Pigford claim

The term Pigford claim has the meaning given the term in section 14012(a) of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2209).

(2)

Settlement agreement

The term Settlement Agreement means the settlement agreement dated February 18, 2010 (including any modifications agreed to by the parties and approved by the court under that agreement) between certain plaintiffs, by and through their counsel, and the Secretary of Agriculture to resolve, fully and forever, the claims raised or that could have been raised in the cases consolidated in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, No. 08–511 (D.D.C.), including Pigford claims asserted under section 14012 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2209).

(b)

Appropriation of funds

(1)

In general

There is hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture $1,150,000,000, to remain available until expended, to carry out the terms of the Settlement Agreement if the Settlement Agreement is approved by a court order that is or becomes final and nonappealable.

(2)

Relation to other funding

The funds appropriated by this subsection—

(A)

are in addition to the $100,000,000 of funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation made available by section 14012(i) of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2212); and

(B)

shall be available for obligation only after those Commodity Credit Corporation funds are fully obligated.

(3)

Effect of Settlement Agreement

If the Settlement Agreement is not approved as provided in this subsection, the $100,000,000 of funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation made available by section 14012(i) of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2212) shall be the sole funding available for Pigford claims.

(c)

Use of funds

The use of the funds appropriated by subsection (b) shall be subject to the express terms of the Settlement Agreement.

(d)

Treatment of remaining funds

If any of the funds appropriated by subsection (b) are not obligated and expended to carry out the Settlement Agreement, the Secretary of Agriculture shall return the unused funds to the Treasury and may not make the unused funds available for any purpose related to section 14012 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2212), for any other settlement agreement executed in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, No. 08–511 (D.D.C.), or for any other purpose.

(e)

Effect of legislation

Nothing in this section—

(1)

requires the United States, an officer or agency of the United States, or any other person to enter into the Settlement Agreement or any other settlement agreement; or

(2)

creates the basis for a Pigford claim.

(f)

Conforming amendments

Section 14012 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–246; 122 Stat. 2209) is amended—

(1)

in subsection (c)(1)—

(A)

by striking subsection (h) and inserting subsection (g); and

(B)

by striking subsection (i) and inserting subsection (h);

(2)

by striking subsection (e);

(3)

in subsection (g), by striking subsection (f) and inserting subsection (e);

(4)

in subsection (i)—

(A)

by striking (i) and all that follows through Of the funds and inserting the following:

(h)

Funding

Of the funds

;

(B)

by striking subsection (g) and inserting subsection (f); and

(C)

by striking paragraph (2);

(5)

by striking subsection (j); and

(6)

by redesignating subsections (f), (g), (h), and (k) as subsections (e), (f), (g), and (i), respectively.

2.

Relief for discrimination in a credit program of the Department of Agriculture under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act

(a)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Eligible complaint

The term eligible complaint means any written complaint—

(A)

that is not employment related;

(B)

that was filed with the Department of Agriculture after December 31, 1997, and before the earlier of—

(i)

2 years after the date of the alleged violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 U.S.C. 1691); and

(ii)

the date of the enactment of this Act;

(C)

with respect to which the complainant—

(i)

was not a party to the consent decree in the case entitled Pigford v. Glickman, approved by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on April 14, 1999; and

(ii)

has not obtained relief from the Department of Agriculture or a court of competent jurisdiction; and

(D)

does not arise from the same causes of action addressed in the Settlement Agreement (as defined in section 1(a)).

(2)

Filing period

The term filing period means the 2-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act.

(3)

Secretary

The term Secretary means the Secretary of Agriculture.

(b)

Authorization

To the extent permitted by the Constitution, and notwithstanding any other period of limitations, in the case of an eligible complaint alleging discrimination in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 U.S.C. 1691) involving a credit program of the Department of Agriculture, a complainant may, before the end of the filing period—

(1)

file a civil action under subsection (c); or

(2)

request administrative review under subsection (d).

(c)

Civil action

A civil action may be filed under this subsection if, with respect to the eligible complaint, the complainant—

(1)

has not requested administrative review; or

(2)

has requested administrative review, and the Secretary, with respect to each request, has either—

(A)

issued a determination; or

(B)

failed to issue a determination by a date that is 180 days after the date on which the request was made.

(d)

Administrative review

Administrative review may be requested under this subsection as follows:

(1)

Determination on the merits

A complainant may request a determination on the merits if the complainant, with respect to the eligible complaint, has not filed a civil action.

(2)

Hearing on the record

A complainant may request a hearing on the record if the complainant, with respect to the eligible complaint—

(A)

has not filed a civil action;

(B)

has requested a determination on the merits, and the Secretary has not issued such determination by the issuance deadline in subsection (f)(2)(A); and

(C)

requests such hearing not later than 180 days after the issuance deadline in subsection (f)(2)(A).

(e)

Settlement

Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Secretary may settle an eligible complaint with a complainant.

(f)

Special rules for administrative review

For purposes of this section:

(1)

Requests for administrative review

A request for administrative review shall be—

(A)

in writing; and

(B)

filed in accordance with procedures established by the Secretary.

(2)

Responsibility of secretary

If a complainant requests a determination on the merits under subsection (d)(1), then, unless a complainant, with respect to the eligible complaint, files a civil action or requests a hearing on the record, the Secretary shall, with respect to the eligible complaint, take the following actions:

(A)

Issuance of determination

The Secretary shall, not later than an issuance deadline that is 1 year after the date on which the complainant requests a determination on the merits—

(i)

investigate the eligible complaint; and

(ii)

issue a written determination.

(B)

Notice of failure to issue timely determination

If the Secretary does not issue a written determination by the issuance deadline in subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall promptly issue to the complainant, in writing and by registered mail, notice—

(i)

that the Secretary has not issued a timely determination; and

(ii)

of the period of time during which the complainant may bring a civil action or request a hearing on the record.

(3)

Finality of determination with respect to hearing on the record

A determination with respect to a hearing on the record shall be final.

(4)

Judicial review of administrative determination

A determination on the merits or a determination with respect to a hearing on the record shall be subject to de novo review.

(g)

Filing period

The running of the filing period, for the purpose of filing a civil action under subsection (c) or requesting a hearing on the record under subsection (d)(2), shall be tolled for the period that, with respect to the eligible complaint—

(1)

begins on the date of a request for a determination on the merits; and

(2)

ends on the date on which the Secretary issues a determination with respect to a determination on the merits or a hearing on the record.

(h)

Relief

(1)

Amount

Subject to paragraph (2), a complainant shall, under subsection (b), and may, under subsection (e), be awarded such relief as the complainant would be afforded under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (15 U.S.C. 1691), including—

(A)

actual damages;

(B)

the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney’s fee; and

(C)

debt relief, including—

(i)

write-downs or write-offs of the principal on a loan;

(ii)

write-downs or write-offs of the interest on a loan;

(iii)

reduction of the interest rate on a loan;

(iv)

waiver or reduction of penalties with respect to a loan; or

(v)

other modification of the terms of a loan.

(2)

Limitations on relief

(A)

In general

The total amount awarded under this section for all claims shall not exceed $100,000,000.

(B)

Actual damages, costs, and attorney’s fees

The sum of the total amount awarded under paragraph (1)(A) for all claims, plus the total amount awarded under paragraph (1)(B) for all claims, shall not exceed $40,000,000.

(C)

Debt relief

The total amount awarded under paragraph (1)(C) for all claims shall not exceed $60,000,000.

(3)

Exemption from taxation

Any award under clauses (ii), (iii), or (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) shall not be included in gross income for purposes of chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

(i)

Funding

There is hereby appropriated to the Secretary, for relief awarded under subsection (h)(1), $100,000,000, to remain available until expended.