Utah senator stalls 'plain language' bill

A bill mandating the use of "plain language" on government forms, benefit applications, reports and other documents may languish this year amid a crowded Senate schedule and an unanticipated hold by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.

The bill would not apply to regulations. It defines "plain language" as language that "is clear, concise, well organized, and follows the best practices of language writing."

It would direct the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidelines for implementing the program within six months and then monitor compliance among agencies.

In April, the measure cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on voice vote, while a similar measure passed the House 376-1.

It was expected to breeze through the Senate just before lawmakers left town for their summer recess when Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, placed a hold on behalf of Bennett.

According to Bennett aides, he was concerned about its impact on the Federal Election Commission and the Election Assistance Commission -- both of which fall under the oversight jurisdiction of the Senate Rules Committee, where he serves as ranking member.

"The FEC in particular is required to interpret campaign finance law and issue regulations that are often full of legal terms," spokeswoman Tara Hendershott said in an e-mail. "These precise terms may become lost in translation if [the FEC is] required to use whatever OMB determines is 'plain English.'" Hendershott added that while Bennett understands the need for clear communication, "he is concerned about the unintended consequences of this bill."

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, sponsor of the legislation, expressed disappointment in Bennett's move. The Hawaii senator said in a statement that his measure "is a good bipartisan bill that would improve Americans' access to their government," and "deserves an up or down vote on the floor." Aides to Akaka and Bennett said last week that they were discussing compromise language for the legislation but had not reached an agreement.

Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., is not planning to try to bring up the bill if Bennett will force him to file cloture, according to a spokesman. But Bennett has come under pressure from outside Congress. The National Small Business Association sent him a letter last week asking him release his hold, arguing that the bill would "not be a mandate" as such, and that it represented a "common sense approach to saving small business -- and the federal government -- time, effort and money."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.