Public Laws and the US Code

After the founding documents, the US Code is the next set of legislation on the hierarchy of US Laws. It is clearly written and divided into sections and even in instances where some of the language needs to be updated to modern English, it is not to difficult to find the meaning of the legislation. Much of the US Code, also publicly defines penalties and prison time, write in the chapter or subsection. So this is valid and clearly written even if the language could some work.

Public Laws, are not always legislation. Sometimes they are a declaration, proclamation, request for resolution or just bringing attention to items or events that need to be reviewed by Congress. These should probably be called by their appropriate names instead of calling everything a Public Law as it makes it difficult to find the legislation that is valid and in force.

A suggestion would be to have House Resolutions, Senate Resolutions, House Proclamations, Senate Proclamations, House Declarations and Senate Declarations. Declarations can be used to declare before Congress an item or event needs attention in Congress. A Resolution would be used to issue a potential solution to solving the problem created by the item or event legislatively, a Proclamation would be used to proclaim that a certain resolution has received majority consensus by both the House and Senate, by either the House or Senate and to proclaim that a resolution has become Public Law. In this process a Declaration would also be used to declare that a resolution needs a public law number and a proclamation would be used to proclaim that a Public Law number has been issued. A proclamation would also be used to proclaim that a Public Law has become valid and in force with the President’s signature. A declaration would then be used to insert the public law into the US Code, resolutions would be submitted on which section to amend and when the correct section to amend is determined, a proclamation would be issued regarding the section of US Code to amend.

Standardizing the Public Law Document Format

Public Laws should have a name and year and continue to reference the existing Congressional Session Number and Hyphenated Agenda Item. The Public Laws that are actual legislation as opposed to proclamations, declarations or proposed resolutions can then be inserted into the US Code in their respective chapter with the Public Law name and year number. For example, Public Law 115-97 is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and begins with section 11000, the short title. Section 11001 modifies US Code Title 26, Chapter 1 and Section 11081 is Part VIII – INDIVIDUAL MANDATE. Section 11081 modifies US Code Title 26, Chapter 48, Section 5000A. The updated Individual Mandate legislation can be read on Justia.

Overall, Public Law 115-97 is a good piece of legislation as Title 1 of Public Law 115-97 only modifies Title 26 of the US Code and the Public Law provides a list of paragraphs to be amended. Title 2, beginning at section 20001 modifies Title 16, Title 42 and Title 43. It’s not immediately clear how this pertains to tax cuts or job creation. The amendment to Title 43 is placed in the editorial notes at Justia as they have been updating their website and now include more thorough information for each piece of legislation in the US Code. Justia is run by a team of attorneys marketing their services and providing transparent access to the US Code and State Legislation for all 50 States so its concerning that they did not know what text to amend.

As a suggestion, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 could have been organized as follows:

  • Public Law 115-97 The Tax Cuts Act of 2017
  • Public Law 115-97 The Job Creation Act of 2017
  • Public Law 115-97 The Energy Security Act of 2017
  • Public Law 115-97 The Land Conservation Act of 2017

Each Act would then stick to covering only 1 topic and break down each act into titles within that specific section of the US Code, for example:

  • Public Law 115-97 The Tax Cuts Act of 2017
    • Title 1 – Updated Tax Rates (section 11001
    • Title 2 – Inflation Adjustments (section 11002)
    • Title 3 – Qualified Business Income (section 11011)
    • Title 4 – Interest and Securities (STAT. 2067)
    • Title 5 – Agricultural Cooperatives (STAT. 2069 (g))
    • Title 6 – Anti-Abuse (STAT. 2070 (h))
    • Title 7 – Limitation on Losses (section 11012)
    • Title 8 – Families and Individuals (PART III)
    • Title 9 – Charitable Contributions (section 11023)
    • Title 10 – Disaster Relief (section 1128)
    • Title 11 – Student Loan Discharge (section 11031)
    • Title 12 – State and Local Taxes (section 11042)
    • Title 13 – Personal Casualty Losses (section 11044)
    • Title 14 – Estate and Gift Taxes (PART VI)
    • Title 15 – IRS Levies (PARTVII)
    • Title 16 – Healthcare Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 then goes into corporate taxes. I would make this a separate act because reduction in taxes at the individual family level is meant to increase savings, lead to financial stability and stimulate spending in the local economy.

Reduction in taxes for corporations are usually meant to increase cash on hand to be used for hiring because nobody wants to hire staff on a high interest loan. From a Central Bank financial perspective, business loans are meant for equipment and leases and not for long term overhead costs like utilities or payroll unless it is a long established business and there is a widespread economic emergency. Business loans are also not meant to pay off older loans nearing there maturity date that have several deferments.

Increase in cash on hand is also meant to spur investments into research and development for additional products and services that can be sold in the local or international markets which in turn would create more jobs.

Having both of these acts combined clutters legislation for individual and family tax payers so I would make them separate acts. Beginning with Subtitle C Business-related Provisions, I would put this part of the The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 into a separate act because it is only meant for business owners, investors, bankers, executive officers and board members of a major corporation.

  • Public Law 115-97 The Job Creation Act of 2017
    • Title 1 – New Corporate Tax Rates
    • Title 2 – Dividend and Interest Income
    • Title 3 – Expenses and Deprecation
    • … etc.

This has the added benefit of allowing potential new business owners to look at current corporate tax legislation and make an informed decision on starting a new business based on current and active legislation and not have to spend thousands of dollars on consultation time with attorneys, tax planners, CPAs and business plan writers that could have gone into a home revocation or nice vacation only to decide running a business is too difficult or that the financial incentive provided by the tax cuts aren’t enough to make their business plan viable.

While the Plain Writing Act of 2010 only applies to the Federal Government and its agencies, Congress should strive to make US Legislation legible and easily accessible to the greatest number of people living in the US as possible. Using these guidelines would do a lot in attracting top tier immigrants to the US and ensuring that the majority of the population is law abiding and communicating with Congress or their State Legislature regarding problems in their communities.

The final critique is that the document on Congress.gov should be provided in a .txt format, a .pdf format and in an html format. HTML 5 is the current standard for web pages and the W3C has updated its website so that everyone is using the same standard. You can begin using html 5 for all new websites immediately. For older websites, the recommendation is to convert to xhtml 1.1 first before upgrading to html 5 if you are having problems with a direct upgrade to html 5. W3C is the world wide global standards organization for creating webpages.