B-225832.6, Jul 8, 1987

B-225832.6: Jul 8, 1987

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The statute creating a temporary commission provided that the commission would terminate 90 days after the issuance by the commission of two reports which were to be sent to Congress by deadlines specified in the statute. Because the statute did not specify any consequences if the reports were late. The specified deadlines may be disregarded and the commission will not terminate until 90 days after the reports are actually issued. This conclusion is supported by the fact that one of the specified deadlines expired 30 days prior to the statute's enactment. The Honorable Dale Bumpers: You have asked for our opinion on the termination date for the Commission on Central American Negotiations established by Public Law 99-591.

B-225832.6, Jul 8, 1987

MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS - Federal Administrative/Legislative Matters - Administrative proceedings - Deadlines - Statutory compliance DIGEST: 1. An agency's failure to take an action (such as issue a report) prior to a statutory deadline neither precludes the agency from acting, nor relieves it of the obligation to act after the deadline, unless the statute creating the deadline both expressly requires the agency to act before that date, and specifies a consequence for failure to comply with that provision. MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS - Federal Administrative/Legislative Matters - Advisory committees - Reports - Deadlines - Statutory compliance 2. The statute creating a temporary commission provided that the commission would terminate 90 days after the issuance by the commission of two reports which were to be sent to Congress by deadlines specified in the statute. However, because the statute did not specify any consequences if the reports were late, the specified deadlines may be disregarded and the commission will not terminate until 90 days after the reports are actually issued. This conclusion is supported by the fact that one of the specified deadlines expired 30 days prior to the statute's enactment.

The Honorable Dale Bumpers:

You have asked for our opinion on the termination date for the Commission on Central American Negotiations established by Public Law 99-591, October 30, 1986, the Joint Resolution making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 1987. Specifically, you have asked whether, under the provisions of the Resolution, the Commission must go out of existence 90 days after the deadline for submission of the two reports required of it, even if those deadlines have not been met.

The Commission was established by section 213 of the fiscal year 1987 Military Construction Appropriation Act, 100 Stat. 3341-288, which is included in Public Law 99-591. Salaries and expenses of the Commission, to a maximum of $400,000, are to be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate out of the Account for Miscellaneous Items. Section 213(g) states "The Commission shall terminate not later than 90 days after transmittal of the reports required by subsection (e)." Subsection (e) requires two reports-- one 5 days after receipt by the Congress of a report by the President concerning steps taken to achieve a resolution of the conflict in Central America and another concerning actions by Nicaraguan resistance groups. The second report is required to be submitted "not later than September 30, 1986," 30 days prior to the passage of Public Law 99-591. We understand that neither of the reports has been submitted.

Failure to take action by a statutory deadline does not foreclose action by a government agency unless the statute "both expressly requires an agency or public official to act within a particular time period and specifies a consequence for failure to comply with the provision." St. Regis Mohawk Tribe v. Brock, 769 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1985) (quoting Fort Worth National Corp. v. Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corp., 469 F.2d 47, 58 (5th Cir. 1972)), cert. den., 106 S.Ct. 2245 (1986). See also Brock v. Pierce County, 106 S.Ct. 1834 (1986).

While section 213(g) establishes deadlines for the submission of the two required reports, it attaches no consequences to failure to meet those deadlines. Therefore, failure to meet the deadlines does not relieve the Commission of its reporting obligations. It follows that neither did expiration of the deadlines trigger the 90-day termination provision. Instead, the provision should be given its plain meaning-- that the Commission does not terminate by law until 90 days after the reports are submitted, even if they are submitted after the established deadlines have passed. The fact that one of the Commission's reporting deadlines expired a month prior to enactment of Public Law 99-591 supports the conclusion that the Congress did not intend to terminate the Commission or its reporting obligations merely because the Commission failed to meet the deadlines for those reports.

We trust this letter meets the purpose of your inquiry.