WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and James Lankford (R-OK) to ensure that guidance, instructions, and other public information published by the federal government is written in plain language has advanced in the Senate. The bill updates existing laws to expand the types of information agencies must publish publicly in plain writing. The legislation was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“Material written by the federal government should be easy to understand. Unfortunately, taxpayers often encounter complicated and vague information when trying to seek federal assistance,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will ensure that agencies are clearly communicating with Michiganders and people across the country. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
“Government is confusing enough. The least an agency can do is to speak plainly. Agencies do not have to communicate with jargon, technical terms no one understands, confusing deadlines, and a million citations and references to obscure laws that only an elite few can understand,” said Senator Lankford. “It shouldn’t be complicated for agencies to use plain language and communicate clear expectations when interacting with the public. Our bill holds agencies accountable to speak ‘citizen speak,’ not government speak.”
The Clear and Concise Content Act updates the Plain Writing Act of 2010 to expand the types of information agencies must publish publicly in plain writing. The bill creates a broad definition of “covered content” to ensure nearly all information, guidance, instructions, and other material public information are drafted in plain writing. The bill requires new data reporting requirements to ensure information published by federal agencies improves taxpayers’ experience when they are interacting with the government. The bill also requires that all new and existing agency websites meet covered content requirements within one year. Finally, the legislation makes clear that Congress and the Office of Management and Budget will increase public accountability to ensure agencies create documents, forms, webpages, and other materials that are plainly written.