Under the Dome

Another strategy for controversial bills

How should you title a bill on a controversial subject?

Another strategy: Don't say what you're doing.

As noted previously, one strategy is to give your bill either a heroic or bland title that gives no indication of its subject matter. But in some cases, you can mention the subject, as long as you leave out a crucial verb:

Eminent Domain: Compensate nonprofits whose properties are taken by the government at a higher price than fair-market value.

Access to Higher Education: Prohibit state colleges and community colleges from asking students whether they are illegal immigrants.

Modify Charter School Law: Among other things, change the cap on charter schools to allow six more to open each year.

The third bill is especially instructive when compared to titles of other bills that would raise or eliminate the cap on charter schools: Raise Cap on Charter Schools, Eliminate the Cap on Charter Schools, Remove Cap on the Number of Charter Schools and Increase Cap on Charter Schools.

Similar, but still more direct: Allow Charter Schools in 100 Counties.


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confusing short title and title

Ryan, you are not setting out the titles as the main object in your post, but the short titles. Both the short title and the title appear both in the bill and in the searchable online database. The short title is limited to 45 characters and spaces. The short title is what appears on the floor calendar and as the header in the School of Government Daily Bulletin, it is also used by our indexers to help them build our term word index, which is done by people, not a computer.

"Eminent Domain" is the short title, the full title is stated clearly in the bill is "AN ACT to allow differential treatment of nonprofit organizations whose property is condemned so as to allow replacement value rather than fair market value." and is not hidden anywhere.

If the bill is enacted, the short title drops away. It is just used for internal reference. The drafter took a 138 character long title WHICH APPEARS AT THE TOP OF THE PUBLIC DOCUMENT and shortened it to 14 for the SHORT title. If the short title has been "differential treatment of nonprofits" would that have conveyed more or less information about the bill compared to "EMINENT DOMAIN". We chose the latter.

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