Florida: new governor pleased with plain language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Jan 9 13:05:11 UTC 2007

January 8, 2007

Crist pleased with plain language


TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist took his first tour of the Department of
Business and Professional Regulation today and left satisfied that the
state's top regulators are policing their own words. "We want to be the
model for good, plain language," DBPR Secretary Holly Benson told Crist at
a morning news conference complete with blow-ups of before and after
letters to constituents that were scrubbed of legalese and jargon. Benson,
until two weeks ago a Republican House member from Pensacola, proudly
presented her new boss with a red marking pen and vowed to have a new
language policy in place by the end of the week. "I appreciate your
quick-strike response," Crist told her. "This is very important to me."

Crist called last week in his inaugural address, followed the next day by
an executive order, for state workers to use simpler and less confusing
language in official dealings with the public. DBPR regulates most
licensed professions in Florida, everything from beauticians to building
contractors, and has ample opportunity to improve government
communication. Benson said her department churns out some 18,800 letters a
day and an average of 5.6 million a year. "Good night, that's staggering,
isn't it," Crist said. "We're not here by accident today." Benson said the
department's communications and legal offices are working with the dean of
the law school at Florida State University to come up with a new policy.

Benson offered Crist and reporters the following examples: "This letter
acknowledges receipt of your complaint by the Division of Regulation of
the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The complaint has
been reviewed and an analysis of your complaint has resulted in the
forwarding of this matter to the appropriate regional office so that an
investigation may be conducted," reads the original.

It was changed to, "The Department of Business and Professional Regulation
has received your complaint against (name withheld.) Your complaint has
been reviewed and forwarded to the JACKSONVILLE OFFICE for investigation."



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