I'm Just A Bill, But I'm Hard To Read...
June 18, 2020 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there a web site that will explain the content of pending Congressional Bills, or bills signed into law, in plain English, or at least in not-so-opaque language?

I've occasionally been curious about pending bills that come before Congress, and have looked into the occasional bill itself, but when I try to read them I get hopelessly confused by the legalese. My boss has invited me to read a couple bills recently as well (they kinda sorta affect our work), and I'd like to at least make the effort. But whenever I try my brain hurts, especially when it's about something like tax law and the first several pages are taken up by painstaking explanations of what is meant by each concept the law discusses. I understand it's necessary, but as a layman I just want a summary.

I think what I'm looking for is a site that gives a sort of Cliffs Notes explanation of a given law and what it does. Does such a thing exist?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Law & Government (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This one looks good:

posted by troywestfield at 7:38 AM on June 18, 2020

It can take a while for the summary to show up (and some bills never get one), but the Congressional Research Service writes summaries of bills. If you're looking at a bill on Congress.gov the summary is the default tab for a bill. Here is the CARES Act, for example. Its summary begins:
This bill responds to the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak and its impact on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses.


This division establishes the Paycheck Protection Program to provide eight weeks of cash flow assistance to small businesses through federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll. Such assistance shall be to cover costs such as payroll, paid sick leave, supply chain disruptions, and employee salaries. The division further provides that certain amounts owed on such loans are eligible to be forgiven.
For well-known laws, there is often a Wikipedia page, although it can be of variable quality.

GovTrack is mostly an alternative interface to the Congress.gov data. I don't think they add their own summarization.
posted by jedicus at 7:41 AM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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