Date: April 17, 2008
House Passes H.R. 3548, the “Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2008”
On April 14, 2008, the House of Representatives passed on a motion to suspend the rules H.R. 3548, a bill 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. Of interest to SSA:
• The bill would require Federal Agencies, including SSA, to use plain language when writing documents that will be viewed by the public on how to obtain a benefit or service. This would include updates to already established forms and other publications; effective within one year after enactment.
• The bill would require Federal Agencies, including SSA, to follow the guidance of the Plain English Handbook published by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Plain Language Guidelines, or their own plain language guidance as long as it is consistent with the Federal Plain Language Guidelines; effective within one year after enactment.
• The bill would require, within six months of enactment, the head of each Federal Agency, including the Commissioner of SSA, to submit to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs an initial report describing how it would: (1) communicate the bill's objectives to agency employees; (2) train agency employees to write in plain language: (3) ensure ongoing compliance; (4) meet the requirement to use plain language in new documents within one year of the date of enactment; and, (5) designate a senior official to be responsible for implementation, and, to the extent practicable and appropriate, use of plain language in regulations promulgated by the agency. (NOTE: Agencies would not be required to write regulations in plain language.).
• The bill would further require the head of each Federal Agency, including the Commissioner of SSA, to submit to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs a report on the agency's compliance with the bill and efforts to meet the objectives described above annually for the first two years following enactment and then once every three years thereafter.