Jordan Green: Bills are stuffed and need shortened

by Jordan Green

Modern-day lawmakers like to write. And write. And write.

But there was once a time when our nation's leaders found it important to write less, not more.

When our Founding Fathers set out to create the United States of America, they had a lot to think about – and a lot to write about.

Thomas Jefferson was one of those men. Even though there was a lot to discuss with building a new nation – individual rights, governmental restrictions, and taxes, among other things – those great men still found a way to be clear and concise. The U.S. Constitution – the document around which our entire nation was built – only has 4,400 words. It's the shortest such document of its kind in the world, and it doesn't take long to read.

In a simple quote, Jefferson explained why he felt brevity was important: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

That is a talent. But it's one that lawmakers haven't used in a while.

In our day and age, lawmakers like to fill their bills with legal jargon and fluffy writing that is often hard to comprehend. This can make the meanings and purposes of laws hard to understand. You can see where problems can arise from this. Luckily, the U.S. Congress is finally taking steps to change that.

Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) has announced the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 395, entitled the “Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act.” According to a press release from the senator's office, the bill will require federal officials to write a “100-word, plain-language summary” of new federal regulations.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal agencies would be required to link the summaries of laws in the Federal Register, the directory of federal laws and regulations, to It's a move to help individuals better understand exactly what new laws will do and how they will impact people.

Better yet, it's not expected to cost much, according to the CBO.

“CBO expects that preparing the short summary of proposed rules under S. 395 would not significantly increase agencies’ administrative costs,” said a statement on the office's website. “CBO estimates that implementing S. 395 would have no significant cost over the next five years.”

This is a good start toward helping the average Joe understand what's going on on Capitol Hill. For far too long, people have had to trust everything their elected officials tell them about what a bill will do. This measure, though, allows someone other than the bill's author to give his or her take on a bill's effects.

Lankford called the bill a “common-sense solution” to help Americans become more knowledgeable about the federal government.

“Oklahomans do not read hundreds of pages of inside-the-Beltway jargon in the  Federal Register  before breakfast just to find out whether there’s some new obscure regulation that affects their small business,” said Lankford.

“In our booming economy, the Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act is a simple, non-partisan bill that will help businesses understand federal regulations without wasting their time reading through pages and pages just to find out whether a regulation applies to them. This is a good governance bill, plain and simple. I appreciate Ranking Member Sinema’s continued commitment and original cosponsorship of this common-sense solution to help the American people and their small businesses efficiently navigate federal regulations. I look forward to continuing our work to make a government of the people work for the people. ”

Roger Miller once said, “It's one thing to have talent. It's another to figure out how to use it.”

Alas, Congress is finally figuring out that it has a talent: brevity.