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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] Acts and bills

Dear Grant, 

Il giorno 11/feb/2013, alle ore 04.01, Grant Vergottini ha scritto:

> 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.

Please excuse me if this has seemed an effort on my part to stifle discussion. It is not: I am proposing to discuss this topic to its very end and then be done with it. And please do not get hurt if I try to inject some haste in the proceedings of this group. As I said, we are living through a narrow window of attention from institutions and vendors, and we should not let it close. 

Personally I feel like the constructor being involved in a discussion about the various qualities of timber for the structural beams of a house, when the house is up already and he was rather thinking about light fixtures and drape colors. Discussing beams is important, so important that I am proposing to have an open-ended discussion with no constraints, and am suggesting to change them immediately once an agreement has been reached. But since these terms ARE like structural beams, I am just asking that this discussion, exactly because it is important and structural, is brought to a decision soon, so that we can again continue discussing about the exact shade of purple of the drapes. 

My objection to the "late stage" of the discussion is my fear that this ends up being just a terminological disquisition. I am not personally interested in terms, as long as they are widely accepted and of the right form. So if this is just a terminological dispute, I'll urge everybody to converge on an acceptable set of terms, as long as they are, in order of importance, 1) nouns, 2) short and 3) common, and I'll update the schema and be done with it. 

And if this is not a terminological dispute, then by all means this is my contribution to the discussion and we should have it and clarify our stuff as soon as possible. 

> 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. 

In most countries both the legislative and the executive power emanate documents containing norms binding the behavior of the citizens. Also, in most countries, a hierarchy exists of legislating bodies, that creates a hierarchy of the norms the emanate, that is expressed in a hierarchy of the documents where said norms are expressed. They are different in form, process, efficacy, jurisdiction and name, but they all are explicitly emanated (or promulgated, or enacted, you tell me) and have a specific moment in time after which they are "active", i.e., they have effect on their subjects. There are countries with such a strong separation of executive and legislative powers, that one may find difficult to see similarities in their legislation. Also, there are (e.g., smallish) countries with such a short hierarchy that one is never facing the problem of finding a common ground for, say, local regulations and the Constitution. 
Akoma Ntoso has planned to combine in one single group all documents containing text expressing norms that are currently "active", or that have been "active" in the past. 

Proper acts coming from a Parliament represent clearly the most important fraction of them, and therefore, for metonymy if not for generality, they have been called "acts". They include documents from legislative as well as executive power, and from the national, regional and local level, as long as they a) contain text representing norms, and b) are or have been active (i.e. are or have been affecting people). Statutes are in, positive titles of the Code are in, the Constitution is in (even it is not an act), decrees are in, Presidential executive orders are in, as well as regulations coming from ministries and departments. Again, "act" amy not be not an encompassing term, but it is metonymy for their most important subset.  

Now what should we do with non-positive titles of the code? My impression is that we should behave with them exactly as we behave with non-authoritative consolidations of positive acts: if an existing statute is modified, whenever the consolidation (i.e., the full text of the new version) is not explicitly provided, this is often generated by a third party (either official or non-official, such as a private publisher). We have always said that the resulting consolidated document, which has no official status, is still an act, indeed, it is an Expression of that statute, and the Work's author is the legislator, while the Expression's author is the third party who actually consolidated the text. I think it is acceptable to say that, if the first version of a Statute is an act, then all subsequent versions of it are also acts, with the only difference is that they have been compiled in a non-authoritative manner. 

If we agree on this approach, then I don't see what's wrong in assuming that non-positive Titles of the US COde are also acts. Positive titles are acts, without any doubt. Consolidated acts are also acts, if we agree with above. Then a non-positive Title of the Code is an act (it contains the text of norms that are active right now), where the author of the Work, and not only of the Expression, is not the Parliament, but an official office, the OLRC. To me there is little scandal in this. 

What about bills? In most countries the draft of an act becomes a proper bill once it has been correctly submitted to and accepted by a legislative body, and stays a bill until it is rejected or converted into an enacted document. But just like with acts, there are other types of documents that are not proper bills, that are different in form, process, efficacy, jurisdiction and name, that have the potentiality to become enacted, but that haven't yet. These include proper bills of the congress, as well as drafts by individual members of parliament, drafted text generated by lobbies, pet bills dreamt up by lone activists and submitted to members of congress seeking support and endorsement, drafts of executive orders, drafts of department regulations, etc. Again, even if the term "bill" might not be precisely correct for all of them, we could count on metonymy to associate the others to the largest subset of such documents.  
> 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". 

Any other document that does not contain text representing norms that are or have been active, and that does not contain text representing norms that may but have not yet become active, are neither acts nor bills. Akoma Ntoso, at the moment, provides explicit names for debateReports, amendments and judgements. For everything else it provides the document type called "doc". This is NOT dismissive, and by no means a way to feel smug and superior wrt these other document types. It is only the recognition that we haven't found or examined a sufficiently large number of documents to decide they actually form a subcategory worth of having its own name. If we decide that a specific subcategory is worth of our time then by all means we should put that in (the EP proposed amendments, for instance, that did not belong to the original set). For instance, from your list of 07/feb/2013:

> 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.

In fact, we should not use bill for this type of documents. Not everything that is discussed by congress is a bill. 

> 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.

I would say that the proposition is the actual bill (the one whose approval affects the norms), while the Constitutional Amendment is a resolution. 

> 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.

I would personally call a people's initiative to propose a law a bill. A bill by extension, certainly, but still a bill, in that it contains text aimed to become norm, which is not yet norm. Thus it fits my definition above. If we don't like the term bill, we should look for a different term. That would be a terminological discussion. 

> 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.

Yet, I would call it an act, in that it contains text that express norms that affect people, and these norms are active right now. Thus, even if it was not enacted, it still fits the definition. And do not forget that even the second version of a statute has not been enacted (only the first version and the modifying statute have), but you would still call it an act. I don't see a difference. If we don't like the term act, we should look for a different term. That would be a terminological discussion. 

I hope I was helpful. Also, I really wish you not to get hurt by what I write. It is never meant to hurt anybody, and if I do, it means that my prowess with the English language, or with basic diplomacy, has failed me once again. 




> Regards,
>    Grant
> 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.
> Ciao
> Fabio
> --
> 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"
> http://vitali.web.cs.unibo.it/
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> ____________________________________________________________________
> Grant Vergottini
> Xcential Group, LLC.
> email: grant.vergottini@xcential.com
> phone: 858.361.6738


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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