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H.R. 3548 (110th): Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2008

The text of the bill below is as of Apr 14, 2008 (Passed the House).


I

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 3548

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

AN ACT

To enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing plain language as the standard style for Government documents issued to the public, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2008.

2.

Purpose

The purpose of this Act is to improve the Federal Government’s effectiveness and accountability to the public by promoting clear communication that the public can understand and use.

3.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Agency

The term agency means an Executive agency, as that term is defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code.

(2)

Plain language

The term plain language means language that the intended audience can readily understand and use because it is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain language writing.

4.

Responsibilities of Federal agencies

(a)

Requirement to use plain language in new documents

Within one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, each agency—

(1)

shall use plain language in any covered document of the agency issued or substantially revised after the date of the enactment of this Act;

(2)

may use plain language in any revision of a covered document issued on or before such date; and

(3)

shall, when appropriate, use the English language in covered documents.

(b)

Guidance

In implementing subsection (a), an agency may follow either the guidance of the Plain English Handbook, published by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Federal Plain Language Guidelines. If any agency has its own plain language guidance, the agency may use that guidance, as long as it is consistent with the Federal Plain Language Guidelines, the Plain English Handbook, published by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the recommendations made by the Comptroller General under section 5(c).

(c)

Additional provisions relating to use of English language

Nothing in this Act shall be construed—

(1)

to prohibit the use of a language other than English;

(2)

to limit the preservation or use of Native Alaskan or Native American languages (as defined in the Native American Languages Act);

(3)

to disparage any language or discourage any person from learning or using a language;

(4)

to impact or affect protections regarding language access; or

(5)

to be inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.

(d)

Covered document

In this section, the term covered document

(1)

means any document that explains how to obtain a benefit or service or file taxes, or that is relevant to obtaining a benefit or service or filing taxes; and

(2)

includes, whether in paper or electronic form, a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction but does not include a regulation.

(e)

Use of plain language by agencies

Each agency should, to the extent practicable and appropriate, use plain language in any collection of information (as defined in section 3502(3)(A)(i) of title 44, United States Code).

(f)

Incorporation of Comptroller General Recommendations

(1)

Reports

(A)

Federal aviation administration

The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, acting through the Plain Language Action and Information Network, shall submit to the committees described in paragraph (2) a report on whether the recommendations made by the Comptroller General in the report under section 5(c) have been incorporated into the Federal Plain Language Guidelines described in subsection (b), and, if such recommendations have not been incorporated, an explanation of why they have not been incorporated.

(B)

Securities and Exchange commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission shall submit to the committees described in paragraph (2) a report on whether the recommendations made by the Comptroller General in the report under section 5(c) have been incorporated into the Plain English Handbook described in subsection (b), and, if such recommendations have not been incorporated, an explanation of why they have not been incorporated.

(2)

Committees

The committees described in this paragraph are the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.

(3)

Deadline

The reports required under paragraph (1) shall be submitted within six months after the issuance of the report provided by the Comptroller General under section 5(c).

5.

Reports to Congress

(a)

Initial report

Within six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the head of each agency shall submit to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate a report that describes how the agency intends to meet the following objectives:

(1)

Communicating the requirements of this Act to agency employees.

(2)

Training agency employees to write in plain language.

(3)

Meeting the deadline set forth in section 4(a).

(4)

Ensuring ongoing compliance with the requirements of this Act.

(5)

Designating a senior official to be responsible for implementing the requirements of this Act.

(6)

Using, to the extent practicable and appropriate, plain language in regulations promulgated by the agency.

(b)

Annual and other reports

(1)

The head of each agency shall submit to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate a report on—

(A)

compliance with this Act; and

(B)

the agency’s continued efforts to meet the objectives specified in subsection (a).

(2)

A report under this subsection shall be submitted—

(A)

annually for the first two years after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(B)

once every three years thereafter.

(c)

Evaluation and Report by Comptroller General

Within six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General shall evaluate existing guidance for agencies on writing in plain language, including the guidance listed in section 4(b), and provide to the Office of Management and Budget, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate a report providing recommendations on—


(1)

plain language guidelines; and

(2)

best practices for plain language.

Passed the House of Representatives April 14, 2008.

Lorraine C. Miller,

Clerk.