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California’s ‘Plain English’ Statutes

Statutes are to be interpreted using the ordinary meaning of the language of the statute

By Chris Micheli, July 24, 2020 6:27 am

One of the directives in drafting legislation is the “Plain English” rule. The purpose of this rule is for the bill drafter to use straightforward language that can be easily understood and interpreted as the Legislature intended. In that regard, the Legislature has enacted a number of statutes over the years that specifically require the use of “plain English” language. The following is a compilation of those statutes:

Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 1, Chapter 3.5, Article 2, Definitions, Section 11342.580

Plain English” means language that satisfies the standard of clarity provided in Section 11349.

Civil Code Division 3, Part 4, Title 1.6A, Article 2, Section 1786.29

(b) An investigative consumer reporting agency shall provide a consumer seeking to obtain a copy of a report or making a request to review a file, a written notice in simple, plain English and Spanish setting forth the terms and conditions of his or her right to receive all disclosures, as provided.

Food and Agriculture Code Division 5, Part 3, Chapter 1, Article 4, Section 10786

(a)(2) If the department issues an administrative penalty pursuant to paragraph (1), the department shall issue a Notice of Violation to the alleged offender or the offender’s agent. The notice shall be written in plain English and shall inform the offender as to how the offender may challenge the administrative penalty.

Health and Safety Code Division 107, Part 5, Chapter 1, Section 128765

(b) The reports published pursuant to Section 128745 shall include an executive summary, written in plain English to the maximum extent practicable, that shall include, but not be limited to, a discussion of findings, conclusions, and trends concerning the overall quality of medical outcomes, including a comparison to reports from prior years, for the procedure or condition studied by the report.

Health and Safety Code Division 107, Part 2, Chapter 2, Article 2, Section 127350

(d) (3) Each hospital’s community benefit report shall contain an explanation of the methodology used to determine the hospital’s costs, written in plain English.

Civil Code Division 3, Part 2, Title 2, Section 1633

(i) The application that is transmitted electronically pursuant to subdivision (a) shall comply with all applicable federal and state securities laws and regulations relating to disclosures to prospective customers… Disclosures shall be written in plain English.

Health and Safety Code Division 2, Chapter 3.2, Article 6, Section 1569.69

(a)(6) Residential care facilities for the elderly shall encourage pharmacists and licensed medical professionals to use plain English when preparing labels on medications supplied to residents. As used in this section, “plain English” means that no abbreviations, symbols, or Latin medical terms shall be used in the instructions for the self-administration of medication.

Corporations Code Title 1, Division 1.5, Chapter 11, Section 3502

(e) The special purpose MD&A and any special purpose current report shall be written in plain English and shall be provided in an efficient and understandable manner, avoiding repetition and disclosure of immaterial information.

Government Code Title 2, Division 4, Part 1, Chapter 3.5, Article 5, Section 11346.2

(a) (1) The agency shall draft the regulation in plain, straightforward language, avoiding technical terms as much as possible, and using a coherent and easily readable style. The agency shall draft the regulation in plain English.

Family Code Division 17, Chapter 2, Article 1, Section 17406

(c) In all requests for services of the local child support agency or Attorney General pursuant to Section 17400 relating to actions involving paternity or support…. Notice shall be in bold print and in plain English and shall be translated into the language understandable by the recipient when reasonable.

Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 1, Chapter 3.5, Article 5, Section 11346.5

(a)(3) An informative digest drafted in plain English in a format similar to the Legislative Counsel’s digest on legislative bills.

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