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Updated 1:49pm - Aug 20, 2014

Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View: Require Calif. bureaucrats to talk plainly

Our View: Require Calif. bureaucrats to talk plainly

We've got a great way to both save trees and to help people make sense of government, all in one fell swoop: Require state bureaucrats to use "plain talk."

It's an idea Washington state began a little more than 18 months ago, when Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered all state agencies to write and speak to the public in plain language – or like a normal person talks to another normal person. That meant no more use of acronyms, jargon and words like "abeyance."

And Gregoire was serious about it, too. She required more than 2,000 state employees to attend classes on writing letters, announcements and documents in everyday language.

That's something California direly needs to copy.

Consider this recent memo from the State Clearinghouse and Planning Unit, which advised city and county officials that, "If a required filing fee is not paid for a project, the project will not be operative, vested or final and any local permits issued for the project will be invalid."

In short, "Until the filing fee is paid, the project can't be granted a permit."

Here's the problem with bureaucrat language: No one really understands it except the bureaucrats (and sometimes even a few of them don't get it). This results in misunderstandings of what government agencies require. Indeed, Washington officials found that when people understood what the government wanted, they actually complied in greater numbers.

For Washington, that meant additional revenue. When the Department of Revenue rewrote a single letter explaining the use tax – a sales tax on products purchased out of state – the number of businesses paying the often ignored law tripled. And that meant another $800,000 annually in state coffers.

We don't know if that would happen in California. But certainly the state would save money simply because bureaucrats wouldn't have to keep making enforcement visits and taking to court all of those people who didn't understand the first time around.

And just how would this save trees? The less bureaucrats write, the less paper they'll use.

Sounds like a win-win to us.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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