Obama cosponsored plain language bill

NZ Debating Chamber, House of Representatives
Anyone who has watched The West Wing knows that political speeches are written by many hands. But here's a sign that Barack Obama's commitment to plain speaking and honesty is more than skin deep. Along with Senator Hillary Clinton and 7 others, he cosponsored a Senate bill establishing plain language as the standard style of Government documents issued to the public. That was on 1 November 2007.

Congress passed its Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2008 on 14 April 2008, with an overwhelming vote of 376:1.

Alas, the companion bill in Senate was stalled by an ignorant objection before the election. The Senate bill may die as a result. Or not. ( I don't pretend to understand the protocol, despite The West Wing. If you know, please do tell!) And hey, I imagine Obama does have more pressing items on his agenda.

Nevertheless, allow me to hope that with approval by the new President, this or a similar bill may jump all the hurdles next time.

In New Zealand, today is election day. The Plain English Power group is intent on lobbying the next Parliament for plain English to become the standard style for public communications. Since the financial situation went pear-shaped, we'll obviously have to show that plain English can save the State a heap of money. No problem there! As for costs, for comparison, The Congressional Budget Office estimated:

Based on information from OMB, CBO estimates that implementing this bill would not significantly increase the cost of preparing various paper or electronic documents used throughout the government.

And we'll need to anticipate questions like the one that stopped the Senate bill in its tracks.

Senate Bill S.2291: A bill to enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing plain language as the standard style of Government documents issued to the public, and for other purposes.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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