Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who is being prohibited from doing what?

The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) posts General Assembly bills on its web site and provides summaries of them so readers can better follow state government. It usually does a very good job.

But the importance of word choice can be critical to the meaning in a bill summary. And sometimes the wrong word can lead to confusion about what a new law would do.

Take, for instance, this description of HB 46, pre-filed for the 2009 session:

A reader depending on the bill summary above may be led to believe that what is being prohibited is the use of a communications device (cell phone or pager) on a motor vehicle that is not almost an antique. The problem is the word "that," which isn't usually used to refer to a person.

Therefore a minor on a moped may find himself, if this bill were passed, subject to a fine for talking while riding even though he thought he was in the clear by virtue of operating, say, a twenty year-old vehicle.

In addition to the imprecise language, there are several elements of the proposed law that are missing from the LRC's bill summary. Youthful drivers in the state might be better served by reading the following instead from KentuckyVotes.org:

KentuckyVotes is a free service provided by the Bluegrass Institute.


Anonymous said...

Very few people would believe that what is being prohibited is the use of a cell phone or pager while operating a vehicle that is not quite an antique. Your observation is very far fetched, and almost seems to be poking fun at the younger generation. People are more intelligent than you are giving them credit for. Or, maybe you are trying to build up the hits to your own blog!

David Adams said...

You are right, 5:29. I don't for a second think most people would believe that what the bill summary says is what the bill actually prohibited. I was just pointing out a discrepancy between what was meant and what was written. That's what I was poking fun at. And I neither intended, implied, or stated anything derogatory about the younger generation or about anyone's intelligence.
You are also correct, however, that I am trying to drive up hits on the blog.
I do regret the misunderstanding and will try to be more clear in the future.

Hempy said...

If there was any fun being poked at "anyone's intelligence" it would be members of the General Assembly (GA).

They are fair game, and when they can't use their mother tongue correctly, that raises the question of whether they should even be writing laws they can't correctly state?

And, where are their aides? Does anyone read these laws other than the typists who had to put it together? And don't they use word processors with grammar checkers on them? Is that too much to expect of our elected solons?

Keep your eagle eye on their case, David. The GA will have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Southern Lady said...

You are doing a good job of trying to keep the General Assembly in line. Someone needs to since they don't even take the time to check what they post. Keep up the good work.