Sunday, September 7, 2008
For two sessions of Congress, plain-language advocates have been working to get a bill through Congress. We thought we had made it, but we are now stalled on the one-foot line. So I'm asking for help in moving S. 2291--the Plain Language in Government Communications Act--to the Senate floor for a vote.
The bill would require the federal government to write more clearly in any document (letter, publication, form, notice, instruction) that it sends to the public about federal requirements, programs, benefits, and services. (It does not cover regulations.) It will dramatically improve the way government communicates with citizens. And there's lots of empirical research to show that plain language saves time and money, gets better results, reduces confusion and frustration, avoids call-backs and mistakes, etc.
Last year, the House passed the Braley plain-language bill, H.R.3548, by a vote of 376 to 1--a sign of the broad bipartisan support that we have had all along. The Senate companion bill, S. 2291, has gone through the Senate committee process safely and is ready for a full vote. Now, however, it has been placed on hold for no obvious good reasons by a staff attorney in the office of Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. We are running out of time, and we need to act to break it loose. There are three ways to help:
1. Send a letter to Bennett's Washington office, expressing your support for the bill. Make sure to note that you're an attorney and a legal-writing professor or teacher. Tell them there's no conflict in legal documents between clarity and precision. The letter does not need to be long. If you live in Utah, it's especially important to write. Write to Hon. Bob Bennett, 431 Dirksen Building, Washington, DC 20510-4403. Since time is short, please fax it to the attention of Shawn Gunnarson at (202) 228-1168.
2. If you live in California, call Senator Feinstein's office. She is the chair of the Rules Committee. Tell her office that S. 2291 will benefit the American people, and it's being held up at the whim of a staff attorney in Senator Bennett's office. Ask her to intervene in her role as chair of the Rules Committee. Call her D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.
3. There are several Republican cosponsors. If you live in any of the states that these cosponsors represent, call the D.C. office and ask them to please talk to Bennett's office to get it moving again.
- Susan Collins, Maine (202) 224-2523
- Thad Cochran, Missouri 202-224-5054
- George Voinovich, Ohio (202) 224-3353
If anyone you talk to expresses interest and wants more information, the person can call me [Joe Kimble] at 517-930-0518. If I can't answer, I'll contact the folks in D.C. who have been leading the effort. Thanks, everyone. Joe