Processes, Standards and Politics: Drafting Short Titles in the Westminster Parliament, Scottish Parliament and US Congress
56 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2012 Last revised: 27 Apr 2013
Investigating the similarities and differences between the US Congress, Westminster Parliament and Scottish Parliament in regard to short titles of Bills and Acts, this article finds there to be a significant divide between Congress and the UK institutions in regard to both the content included in titles and the methods by which they are drafted. Though the three institutions provide recognized points of comparison, it demonstrates that Congress is severely out-of-step with their transatlantic neighbors. The roles of drafters, legislators, House Authorities, drafting guidelines and some constitutional/legislative processes issues that vary between the lawmaking bodies are examined in order to understand such discrepancies. In order to further demonstrate the gulf that exists between Congress and the UK institutions, the article uses interviews from legislative insiders (lawmakers, staffers, drafters, House Authorities, etc.) from every jurisdiction in order to gain valuable perspectives on an emerging field of study. Ultimately, it is determined that the Westminster Parliament, and the Scottish Parliament in particular, take greater care with regard to short titles, in order to ensure accuracy and clarity. Having civil servant drafters inscribe short titles and House Authorities approve such titles has led to descriptive, largely unbiased short titles in both institutions. The Scottish Parliament even formally prescribes standards by which such titles should be judged, which include neutral language that is free from policy promotion. Conversely, allowing legislators and staffers to provide short titles has led to the contemporary state of evocative naming for Congressional bills and laws. The stark differences between the two UK institutions and the US Congress is readily apparent throughout, as the latter relies on misleading, tendentious and unduly promotional short titles for legislative and political tactics, rather than as accurate pieces of referential information for lawmakers and the general public, a standard which seems to characterize the former institutions.
Keywords: short titles, legislation, bills, processes, standards, Congress, Westminster, Scottish Parliament
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