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109th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     109-660

======================================================================



 
                REGULATION IN PLAIN LANGUAGE ACT OF 2006

                                _______
                                

 September 14, 2006.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Tom Davis of Virginia, from the Committee on Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 4809]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Government Reform, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 4809) to amend the provisions of chapter 35 of 
title 44, United States Code, commonly referred to as the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, to ensure usability and clarity of 
information disseminated by Federal agencies, and to facilitate 
compliance with Federal paperwork requirements, having 
considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment 
and recommend that the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     2
Section-by-Section...............................................     4
Explanation of Amendments........................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Rollcall Votes...................................................     4
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     4
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     5
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     5
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     5
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     5
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     5
Committee Estimate...............................................     5
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     6
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, As Reported............     6

                     Committee Statement and Views


                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    The Regulation in Plain Language Act of 2006 (H.R. 4809) 
would require that agencies write regulations in plain, 
understandable language. It would define best practices for 
plain language writing. The legislation would require agencies 
to identify a plain language coordinator, publish guidelines 
for agency implementation, provide training to their employees, 
and periodically report to Congress on their progress.
    When regulations are written in plain, understandable 
language it increases compliance, reduces implementation costs 
for agencies, increases transparency in government, allows for 
greater stakeholder input in the rulemaking process, and 
enhances the public trust of government.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 62 that, ``It 
will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made 
by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that 
they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be 
understood.'' Since our founding, it has been recognized that 
coherence and clarity in our laws, and later regulations, are 
necessary for the creation of a strong republic.
    The need for clarity in rulemaking is even greater today 
because of the increase in the size of government and the 
multitude of regulations that exist. The burden of Federal 
regulations on the American public continues to grow. In a 
report authored for the US Small Business Administration's 
Office of Advocacy, Professor Mark Crain of Lafayette College 
projected total off-budget regulatory costs for 2005 to be $1.1 
trillion. Federal agencies that write, administer, and enforce 
regulations spent $38.3 billion in 2005 and employed over 
235,000 employees, as reported by the joint Weidenbaum Center 
and Mercatus Center study. In 2005, the Federal Register 
included 73,870 pages and published 3,943 new final rules. 
Under this constant deluge of regulation, clear communication 
is necessary to accomplish the goals of those rules.
    The idea of using plain language in crafting regulations is 
not new to the federal government. During the 1970s, President 
Nixon encouraged the use of plain language when he ordered that 
the Federal Register be written in ``layman's terms.'' 
President Carter issued Executive Orders that required 
regulations to be ``easy-to-understand by those who were 
required to comply with them.'' In 1993, President Clinton 
issued Executive Order 12866 and ordered that agencies draft 
their regulations ``to be simple and easy to understand with 
the goal of minimizing the potential for uncertainty.'' It also 
required agencies, when providing information to the public, 
that it ``shall be in plain, understandable language.'' In 1998 
he continued his efforts to incorporate plain language in 
regulations by issuing a Presidential Memorandum that 
formalized the requirement for federal employees to write in 
plain language. The Memorandum stated the requirement clearly, 
``the Federal Government's writing must be in plain language. 
By using plain language, we send a clear message about what the 
Government is doing, what it requires, and what services it 
offers. Plain language saves the Government and the private 
sector time, effort, and money.'' While the current 
administration does not have a formal plain language 
initiative, it does require agencies to follow the requirements 
found in Executive Order 12866, including the use of plain 
language. However, federal regulatory agencies continue to use 
``bureaucratic prose'' and rarely try to incorporate plain 
language in their documents.
    On February 28, 2006, Chairwoman Candice Miller and Ranking 
Member Stephen Lynch of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs 
introduced the Regulation in Plain Language Act (H.R. 4809). On 
March 1, 2006, the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs held a 
hearing entitled, ``Plain Language Regulations: Helping the 
American Public Understand the Rules.'' Chairwoman Miller 
described the benefits of using plain language including: 
saving the government and the taxpayer time, effort, and money. 
Federal agencies use of jargon, complex sentences, and 
ambiguous terms leads to frustration, confusion, and often non-
compliance. She stated that ``you shouldn't have to be a lawyer 
to apply for a small business loan.'' One of the witnesses, 
Joseph Kimble, a professor at the Thomas Cooley School of Law 
in Michigan testified to the many empirical studies 
demonstrating the cost savings to businesses and government 
when plain language is used in regulation and communication 
with the public. One example he cited was of a rewritten U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs letter to veterans. After it was 
rewritten the number of calls to regional information centers 
decreased from 1100 a year to less than 200. Dr. Annetta Cheek, 
Vice-Chair of the Center for Plain Language, catalogued 
examples of government forms, letters, and rules that have been 
rewritten in plain language and the dramatic improvements in 
clarity. She spoke strongly in favor of the benefits of H.R. 
4809 and what it could do to create more positive change in the 
federal government. The President of the National Small 
Business Association, Todd McCracken, reminded the panel about 
the disproportionate cost of compliance for small businesses. 
Those costs often include hiring outside assistance to comply 
with federal rules.
    Before the benefits of plain language can be realized, H.R. 
4809 needs to become law. In order for the federal government 
to realize the cost savings in compliance assistance and non-
compliance and for businesses and taxpayers to reduce their 
frustration and burden associated with compliance, additional 
responsibilities for writing in plain language must be made 
statutory for all federal agencies.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    Representatives Candice Miller and Stephen Lynch introduced 
the Regulation in Plain Language Act (H.R. 4809) on February 
28, 2006. On March 1, 2006, the Subcommittee on Regulatory 
Affairs held a hearing entitled, ``Plain Language Regulations: 
Helping the American Public Understand the Rules'' to 
investigate the need for legislation to improve the federal 
government's performance in plain language writing and 
communication of regulations.
    On June 8, 2006, the Committee on Government Reform held a 
mark up of the Regulation in Plain Language Act (H.R. 4809). 
The Committee, with a quorum present, reported the bill 
favorably by rollcall vote, unanimously.

                           Section-by-Section


Section 1. Short title

    This section would provide that the bill be referenced as 
the Regulation in Plain Language Act of 2006.

Section 2. Definitions

    This section would define the words ``agency'' and 
``regulation'' in their common and understood forms.

Section 3. Procedures for ensuring usability and clarity in rulemaking

    Section 3(a) would amend provisions associated with the 
Paperwork Reduction Act to include a definition of plain 
language for the purposes of the bill. Plain language would be 
defined as language that is clear and readily understandable to 
the intended reader including: using short words, sentences, 
and paragraphs; using active verbs; explaining complex or 
technical terms; minimizing cross-references; using pictures, 
tables and other visual tools; organizing the document 
logically and chronologically; addressing separate audiences 
separately; placing general material before exceptions; and 
following other best practices of plain language writing.
    Section 3(b) would identify responsibilities of federal 
agencies to ensure regulations are written in plain language by 
requiring them to identify an agency official to coordinate 
these functions, to establish a process to implement these 
requirements, and to publish their guidelines to achieve plain 
language writing after consultation with other agencies and 
stakeholders. This subsection would also require that agencies 
provide training to their employees on plain language writing. 
Agencies would also be required to report to the House 
Committee on Government Reform and the Senate Committee on 
Homeland Security & Government Affairs annually for the first 2 
years upon enactment and once every 3 years after that on 
implementation, consistency with other federal agency 
guidelines, and examples of improvements made to regulations as 
a result of their implementation of this law.

                       Explanation of Amendments

    No amendments were adopted in Committee.

                        Committee Consideration

    On June 8, 2006, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 4809, by voice vote, 
a quorum being present.

                             Rollcall Votes

    No rollcall votes were taken on H.R. 4809.

              Application of Law to the Legislative Branch

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill requires agencies to write regulations in plain, 
understandable language. It defines best practices for plain 
language writing. The legislation would require agencies to 
identify a plain language coordinator, publish guidelines for 
agency implementation, provide training to their employees, and 
periodically report to Congress on their progress. As such this 
bill does not relate to employment or access to public services 
and accommodations.
    Legislative branch employees and their families, to the 
extent that they are otherwise eligible for the benefits 
provided by this legislation, have equal access to its 
benefits.

  Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Under clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House 
of Representatives, the Committee must include a statement 
citing the specific powers granted to Congress to enact the law 
proposed by H.R. 4809. Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 of the 
Constitution of the United States grants the Congress the power 
to enact this law.

                     Federal Advisory Committee Act

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       Unfunded Mandate Statement

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement whether 
the provisions of the reported include unfunded mandates. In 
compliance with this requirement the Committee has received a 
letter from the Congressional Budget Office included herein.

                           Committee Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 4809. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 4809 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

                                                     June 20, 2006.
Hon. Tom Davis,
Chairman, Committee on Government Reform,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 4809, the 
Regulation in Plain Language Act of 2006.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Matthew 
Pickford.
            Sincerely,
                                          Donald B. Marron,
                                                   Acting Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 4809--Regulation in Plain Language Act of 2006

    H.R. 4809 would amend the Paperwork Reduction Act to 
require all federal agencies to ensure that regulations are 
written in plain language--clear and readily understandable to 
the intended reader. The legislation also would require each 
agency to designate a coordinator for its efforts to use plain 
language, establish a process to review compliance, publish 
guidelines on the use of plain language, require training for 
federal employees to use plain language, and provide regular 
reports on compliance.
    CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4809 would cost less 
than $500,000 a year, subject to the availability of 
appropriated funds. Most provisions of the bill would codify 
and expand current practices of the federal government. 
Executive Order 12866 and the Presidential Memorandum on Plain 
Language (June 1, 1998) currently require government agencies 
to write regulations in language that is comprehensible to 
readers. Based on information from the Office of Management and 
Budget, CBO estimates that implementing this bill would not 
significantly increase the cost of preparing rulemaking 
documents.
    H.R. 4809 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would have no effect on the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
governments.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Matthew 
Pickford. This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 44, UNITED STATES CODE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



         CHAPTER 35--COORDINATION OF FEDERAL INFORMATION POLICY


SUBCHAPTER I--FEDERAL INFORMATION POLICY

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



Sec. 3502. Definitions

  As used in this subchapter--
          (1)  * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

          (13) the term ``recordkeeping requirement'' means a 
        requirement imposed by or for an agency on persons to 
        maintain specified records, including a requirement 
        to--
                  (A)  * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                  (D) report to third parties, the Federal 
                Government, or the public regarding such 
                records; [and]
          (14) the term ``penalty'' includes the imposition by 
        an agency or court of a fine or other punishment; a 
        judgment for monetary damages or equitable relief; or 
        the revocation, suspension, reduction, or denial of a 
        license, privilege, right, grant, or benefit[.]; and
          (15) the term ``plain language'' means language that 
        is clear and readily understandable to the intended 
        reader and complies with the following standards:
                  (A) Uses short words, sentences, and 
                paragraphs.
                  (B) Uses active verbs.
                  (C) Contains explanations of legal, foreign, 
                and technical terms, unless the terms are 
                commonly understood.
                  (D) Avoids defining terms that are commonly 
                understood.
                  (E) Uses personal pronouns to refer to 
                affected persons and the responsible agency if 
                helpful to improve clarity.
                  (F) Minimizes cross-references.
                  (G) Avoids sentences with double negatives or 
                exceptions to exceptions.
                  (H) Uses tables, diagrams, pictures, maps, 
                and vertical lists to improve clarity.
                  (I) Demonstrates logical organization.
                  (J) Addresses separate audiences separately.
                  (K) Places general material before exceptions 
                and specialized information.
                  (L) Addresses processes covered by a rule in 
                chronological order.
                  (M) Follows other best practices of plain 
                language writing.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 3506. Federal agency responsibilities

  (a)  * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  (d) With respect to information dissemination, each agency 
shall--
          (1)  * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

          (3) provide adequate notice when initiating, 
        substantially modifying, or terminating significant 
        information dissemination products; [and]
          (4) not, except where specifically authorized by 
        statute--
                  (A)  * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                  (D) establish user fees for public 
                information that exceed the cost of 
                dissemination[.]; and
          (5) ensure that regulations are written in plain, 
        understandable language consistent with the definition 
        of ``plain language'' in section 3502(15) of this 
        title, through--
                  (A) designating an agency official as plain 
                language coordinator;
                  (B) establishing a process for reviewing each 
                regulation to ensure its compliance with this 
                paragraph before publishing it in the Federal 
                Register;
                  (C) publishing guidelines to implement this 
                paragraph--
                          (i) not later than 120 days after the 
                        date of the enactment of this 
                        paragraph;
                          (ii) after consulting with other 
                        Federal agencies and the Interagency 
                        Committee on Government Information to 
                        promote consistency of application 
                        between agencies; and
                          (iii) after consulting with affected 
                        stakeholders;
                  (D) training employees who write regulations 
                to write in plain language;
                  (E) reporting to the Committee on Government 
                Reform of the House of Representatives and the 
                Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental 
                Affairs of the Senate annually for the first 2 
                years after the date of the enactment of this 
                paragraph and once every 3 years thereafter on 
                compliance with this paragraph, including--
                          (i) agency implementation of its 
                        guidelines;
                          (ii) agency actions to ensure 
                        consistency with other Federal agency 
                        guidelines; and
                          (iii) examples of some of the changes 
                        made to draft regulations in the 
                        previous year to conform with this 
                        paragraph.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *