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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] Acts and bills

Hi All,
Again, let me apologize for bringing this issue up, at this "late" stage or at any other stage. I didn't realize we had passed a milestone beyond which issues could no longer be brought up.

I don't believe that anyone on this committee should feel that they cannot raise issues. I am somewhat stunned and hurt by this. My intent is not to sabotage Akoma Ntoso. I have been very committed to this effort although much of my contribution to Akoma Ntoso so far has come out my my own pocketbook. I have not had the luxury to bill this to my company. I want this effort to succeed.

I am not objecting to the terms Bill and Act. They're good terms. But they cannot be applied to documents that are neither proposed nor enacted law. Those other documents are nonetheless, important products of a legislature and cannot be easily dismissed as mere "documents" or "sort of like bills and acts". 


On Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 9:02 AM, Fabio Vitali <fabio@cs.unibo.it> wrote:
Dear all,

I am seriously worried by the discussion about the best term to refer to what are actually being defined as acts and bills, not because of the content of the discussion, but because fighting about terminology should NOT be done this late in the discussion. Akoma Ntoso is witnessing a favorable window of attention and interest from administrations and vendors all over the world, and we need not waste it with terminological quarrels.

For this reason, I believe we should set apart some discussion time once and for all over terminological issues, and after that time just accept whatever term has been chosen once and for all. Fr this reason I propose that
* over the next few days we receive from all interested participants any reasonable proposals for terms, starting with bills and acts, and that
* during the next conference call, on February 13th, we vote to choose one for each of act and bill, with simple majority of the present participants, and that
* we commit to never open again the same discussion in the future, and that
* within the next week a list of all other terms that are not appreciated are further examined and alternative terms are proposed for each, and that
* on the following conference on February 20th such list is examined, thoroughly discussed and voted, and that
* we commit to never open the same discussion again in the future.

Thus basically we commit to reaching a complete agreement on terminology by February 20th, so that by the following week, if necessary, a new version of the schema is generated with the recommended terminological modifications, and he discussion is never opened again. I insist we get to a definitive vote within this time frame.

As for terms, my personal opinion is that neither Monica nor I, not being native English speakers, may have an ear fine enough to capture all the nuances arising from each English term. On the other hand, experience with a large number of local traditions all over the world, from Africa to Europe to South America, have provided an immense amount of information of similarities and differences in the management of legal documents in different countries, and it is important to remember that, although for practical purposes the vocabulary of Akoma Ntoso is in English, we should not give the terminology an excessive slant towards US or UK traditions. Therefore, from my point of view, ANY proposed term can be considered openly and without prejudices for its legal and linguistic meaning and nuances, as well as for the likely reception from final users, as long as:
1) it is a noun
2) it is short
3) it is common.
For instance I believe we should discard terms such as "proposed" or "enacted", and we should discard terms such as "SubmissionOfLegislativeDocument" or "EnactmentOfLegislativeDocument".

Finally, it is important that the approved term capture the real distinction between acts and bills. This has nothing to do with source and authoritativeness. All over the world we found hierarchies of legislating bodies with different powers, jurisdiction, and relevance, affecting citizens locally, regionally, and country-wide, and coming from both the executive and the legislative power. Also, most countries, in different ways and modes, have the habit of creating or allowing the creation of systematic collections of legislative texts, as well as consolidated views of legislative texts, that are commonly used for practical purposes and yet have yet no authoritativeness, are not positive, are never meant to substitute authoritatively the official sources, which are directly emanated in an official form by the emanating body. Akoma Ntoso must represent those as well as the more authoritative sources. In my mind it is pretty pointless to use different terms for authoritative and non-authoritative documents, as well as between document from this or that power, this or that jurisdiction, etc.  After all, an Akoma Ntoso document is not and will never be an authoritative source of law, at least until an emanating body will formally endorse the XML version of an approved document. Thus it is already kind of bragging for an Akoma Ntoso document to call itself an act or a bill, when clearly it is just an editorial rendering in XML of some such document. Asserting that non-positive documents contain norms, in fact, could be actually true.

Rather the point our two terms must make is that one (which I call type A, but not "act") represent the text of norms that are or have been active at some point and are affecting or have affected the life of some citizen, while the other (called type B, but not "bill") represent the text of things that are NOT norms, and never have been, but might become norm if some formal steps are carried out and some formal approval is provided. Enacted/proposed is the nuance we are looking for, while authoritative/non-authoritative, or national/regional, or legislative/executive, are not interesting, IMO.

To conclude, please submit your proposals for documents of type A and of type B, so that we can vote on them on Wednesday and go on.




Fabio Vitali                            Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly,
Dept. of Computer Science        Man got to sit and wonder "Why, why, why?'
Univ. of Bologna  ITALY               Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land,
phone:  +39 051 2094872              Man got to tell himself he understand.
e-mail: fabio@cs.unibo.it         Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), "Cat's cradle"

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