Reps. Miller And Lynch Unveil Plain Language Legislation New Bill Will Streamline Regulatory Procedures, Save Time And Money For Small Businesses And Citizens

Mar 2, 2006
WASHINGTON--U.S. Representatives Candice Miller (R-MI) and Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) today introduced new bipartisan legislation called the "Regulation in Plain English Act of 2006" that would, for the first time, require federal agencies to write regulations in plain, understandable English. This would also be the first time that plain English will be defined in Federal law.

Representative Miller is the Chairman and Representative Lynch is the Ranking Member of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs.

Regulations written in plain English would save small business billions of dollars by eliminating the time spent on decoding ambiguous terms and complex sentences, while saving them fines resulting from an inability to understand, and therefore comply with, complicated guidelines.

Mr. Joseph Kimble, a teacher of legal writing and drafting at the Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan, which is the largest law school in the nation, said, "There is now compelling evidence that plain language saves money enormous amounts of money--and pleases readers. The cost of poor communication is the great hidden waste in government. Untold millions and billions."

The bill seeks to make public information clear to all citizens filling out government-distributed memos, thus eliminating excessive phone calls from people who cannot decode forms, confusion about rights and benefits, and mistakes made in trying to follow procedures.

"During my time as Secretary of State of Michigan, our department was responsible for submitting ballot language for statewide initiatives. The language was sometimes so confusing that no one could tell how to vote or what they were voting on--people were misled to think no meant yes and yes meant no, despite voting on things as important as constitutional amendments," Rep. Miller said. "I took care to ensure that the language I oversaw was very clear and in plain English. I believe every citizen has the right to know what is going on in the government."

"Our ultimate goal is simple--to make government paperwork less complex and more efficient,” said Congressman Lynch.  "The promise of democracy, the fullness of individual rights, and the ideal of equal protection under the law for all citizens can never be attained if the communications which seek to carry out the law are drafted in such a way that their meaning and object remain a mystery after being read.  Many government forms are central to the basic rights of American citizens, and it is critical that they are easy to understand.”

NOTE: The following is an example of how translating existing regulations into plain English language would work:

Before using plain language, a Department of Commerce rule read:

"After notification of NMFS, this final rule requires all CA/OR DGN vessel operators to have attended one Skipper Education Workshop after all workshops have been convened by NMFS in September 1997. CA/OR DGN vessel operators are required to attend Skipper Education Workshops at annual intervals thereafter, unless that requirement is waived by NMFS. NMFS will provide sufficient advance notice to vessel operators by mail prior to convening workshops."

After applying plain English, the same rule would read:

"After notification from NMFS, vessel operators must attend a skipper education workshop before beginning to fish each fishing season."

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