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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] Bills and Acts

Hi Monica, Fabio, All,
I can understand the need to define the relevant concepts in the fewest possible terms. In fact, I have tried to do this always. And I still carry the battle scars from when I tried to use terms in an abstract way that were already well understood in a specific way. This simply did not fly. In my experience, people are extraordinarily sensitive to overusing terms for which they have a very precise definition.
It's quite acceptable to define a very general term for an abstract concept if that general term has no pre-existing meaning. But as soon as you hijack an existing term, they come to the meeting armed with whatever force they feel necessary to slay your proposal in its entirety. You're doomed from the very start. I believe that will also happen to Akoma Ntoso too.  Here is why:
1) You cannot call a resolution that does not propose law a bill. A resolution is most often a statement or an opinion made by the legislative body. Calling it a bill brings with it the notion that it is proposing law and, upon approval, will become a law. Certainly, there are cases where a resolution does propose law - such as a US joint resolution. But this is the exception rather than the rule. What about a California Constitutional Amendment? It proposes an amendment to the constitution and is thus regarded as a resolution - put forth to the people of the state, suggesting a modification to the Constitution. It is not considered a bill. When it is adopted, it causes the creation of a proposition to the people - a separate document. It takes successful passage of the proposition for the law to change.
2) You cannot call an initiative by the people, proposing law, a bill. A bill is usually defined as a law proposed by a legislative body. An initiative is not a bill in that it comes from the people rather than from the legislative body. Calling it a bill misplaces its source of origin.
3) You cannot refer to non-positive titles of the US Code as acts. You can call a non-positive title of the US Code a lot of things, but you most definitely cannot call it an act. It was not enacted - and that is an extremely important point. Without enactment, it is only evidence of the law rather than law itself. The entire purpose of the codification of the US Code into positive law is to deal with this important characteristic. I cannot and will not suggest modeling a non-positive title in the US Code using an <act> tag.  It would be less controversial to suggest the non-sensical <automobile> tag.
I think you have to look at the meanings that the words like bill and act bring with them. They are not abstract terms. They have preexisting meanings and meddling with those meanings will only incite quarrels which will lead to the rejection rather than adoption of the standard.
I bring this up as I have tried to deal with this issue too many times in the past and have only found that the only way forward is to either accept a broader vocabulary or to choose a vocabulary unencumbered with existing meaning.

On Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 12:15 AM, monica.palmirani <monica.palmirani@unibo.it> wrote:
Dear Grant,

I understand your linguistic doubts, and I see your points. Thanks.

However "bill" and "act" are two general terms selected as representative of two concepts.

In the semiotic triangles of Peirce the concept is represented by a sign, a sign is a representative term/picture/etc. (usually it is the best term for represent the concept), an object is the concrete thing in the real world.

So during the last 5 years, when Akoma Ntoso core was founded, we had about 20 seminars around the world (Africa, Europe, Latin America, US, etc.) and we have interviewed about 1000 people at the end we decided to use "bill" for representing all the proposed legislation/regulation/order not yet approved by the authority and "act" for any legislative/regulative/government normative document approved by the authority.

Take also in consideration that "bill" is really a general concept and it deosn't represent any legislative procedural step. "bill" is a pre-proposal, it is the document proposed officially to the clerk, it is the document discussed in the assembly, it is the document approved by the Senate but not yet approved by the Chamber, etc. Bill is any draft document of a future "law" in any steps of any legal tradition, in any law-making system.

Similarly "act" includes all the endorsed/approved documents by a empowered authority, including, paradoxically also the autocratic and military regime documents. :-)

They are only and simply abstract terms for representing all the other types of legal document according with each state legal tradition.
It is a synecdoche: we use a part for representing the whole.

I am confident that we can can explain this in the documentation of the D1 that I am now populating for this afternoon.


Il 07/02/2013 00:20, Grant Vergottini ha scritto:
There are two document types in Akoma Ntoso which appear intended to cover a wide range of documents - Bills and Acts. I'm having a bit of a difficulty accepting how these two general terms would map into local terms - largely because of the overlap.

The basic model is, I believe, proposed vs. enacted law. A proposed law is a bill and an enacted law is an act. But that over simplifies the documents. In my experience:

Proposed legislation:

Measures might be the general term. I'm not sure if the term measure is applied to enacted law. 
 - Bills
 - Resolutions (Resoluitions are sometime proposed law and sometimes formal expressions of the legislature.)

Sometime the term "bill" is used to describe all types of measures, but that is sloppy use of language rather than correct use of language. 

Enacted Law:

Law is maybe the general term. Depending on the jurisdiction, laws are referred to as:
 - Acts
 - Statutes
 - Ordinances
 - Codes
 - "Titles" in the case of the US Code
 - Constitution

These are all things that are enacted. I am not convinced that you can refer to these all as "acts"

-- Grant
Grant Vergottini
Xcential Group, LLC.
email: grant.vergottini@xcential.com
phone: 858.361.6738

Associate professor of Legal Informatics 
School of Law
Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna 
C.I.R.S.F.I.D. http://www.cirsfid.unibo.it/ 
Palazzo Dal Monte Gaudenzi - Via Galliera, 3 
I - 40121 BOLOGNA (ITALY) 
Tel +39 051 277217 
Fax +39 051 260782 
E-mail  monica.palmirani@unibo.it 

Grant Vergottini
Xcential Group, LLC.
email: grant.vergottini@xcential.com
phone: 858.361.6738

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