Next: The Stop Clever Acronyms in Titles Act

By January 14, 2011Briefly Legal

When did the practice start of forcing legislative titles into a supposedly clever acronyms start? Was it the serpentine Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, its title twisted in order to achive “RICO,” the name of Edward G. Robinson in “Little Caesar?”

Whatever its origins, the tradition continues in the 112th Congress. In the first few days of bill introductions we find, for example:

  • H.R. 100, the CLEAR Act of 2011 — Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2011
  • H.R. 104, the RAMP Act — the Realize America’s Maritime Promise Act
  • H.R. 109, the VOTER Act — the Voting Opportunity and Technology Enhancement Rights Act
  • H.R. 116, the Robo COP Act — the Robo Calls Off Phones Act
  • H.R. 117, HELP Veterans Act of 2011 — Housing, Employment, and Living Programs for Veterans Act
  • H.R. 118, STOP the FEDS Act — Stop the Federal Exchanges from Destroying States Act
  • H.R. 145, the REPEAL Act — Revoke Excessive Policies that Encroach on American Liberties Act
  • H.R. 158, the EXPENSE Act — Expensing Property Expands our Nation’s Strong Economy Act
  • H.R. 205, the HEARTH Act — the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home ownership Act
  • H.R. 235, the CUTS Act — the Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending Act

At first reading, some of these bills are solid, good pieces of legislation.

But wasn’t accountability born of transparency supposed to be one of the hallmarks of the new House of Representatives? It’s hard to see how a bill title written for the main purpose of a memorable acronym does anything more than confuse.

When it comes to legislation, better clarity than cleverness.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): Looks like the Wall Street Journal beat us to the grousing. On Wednesday, the paper reported, “Congress Finds, in Passing Bills, That Names Can Never Hurt You.” And the WSJ Law Blog advances the thesis, “Like Those Catchy Names for Statutes? Here’s a Man Who Doesn’t.”

“Some of it is tortured, no doubt, but some of its is also very clever,” insists Izzy Klein, a former aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Besides, says Mr. Klein, now a lobbyist with the Podesta Group, “it’s kind of a fun process, like a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku.”

Oh, sure, but that’s not really why we elect people to Congress.

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  • […] When naming a new law, please, no acronyms, no victim names, and no assumptions about what it will accomplish [WSJ Law Blog on Brian Christopher Jones's recommendations] More: Wood. […]

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