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Guidance Documents. Administrative Policy Writing Spring 2012. Administrative Policy Writing Spring 2012. Introduction Remember earlier this semester we said that administrative agencies have three major functions: Adopting and enforcing rules,

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guidance documents

Guidance Documents

Administrative Policy Writing

Spring 2012

administrative policy writing spring 2012
Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Introduction

  • Remember earlier this semester we said that administrative agencies have three major functions:
    • Adopting and enforcing rules,
    • Administering public services and benefits, and
    • Providing the public with information.
  • Our investigation report project was about enforcing rules.
  • The AirCheck project was about administering services.
  • This week we are going to discuss the third function: providing the public with information.
  • We will do this by discussing a type of document used to explain regulations or other law to the public.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Introduction

  • These documents may have different names. We are going to refer to them as guidance documents.
  • Today we will discuss how guidance documents explain regulations and we will break down their parts.
  • We will end today by looking at some examples of real-world guidance documents.
  • The writing project for this week is to write a short guidance document on a set of regulations. We will also talk about how to tackle this project.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Purpose of Guidance Documents

  • The purpose of a guidance document is explain a rule or program to the public or regulated community. These documents should be accurate and easy to understand.
  • Guidance documents begin with the premise that most people don’t want to read regulations or find them difficult to read.
  • From your own experience in this class, you can understand!
  • For the average member of the public, navigating and understanding regulations in the TAC or CFR is intimidating and confusing.
  • Thus, the purpose of these documents is to restate or provide a summary of the regulations in plain English. As mentioned above, there are really two parts to this:
    • It is important that guidance documents are both easy to understand and are accurate.
    • “Easy to understand” involves the principles of plain language we have already discussed.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Purpose of Guidance Documents

  • What does “accurate” mean?
    • The document should exhaust all of the conditions or situations covered by the rules.
    • The document should not add anything to the rules.
    • Unless the agency has determined that further information is necessary to resolve an ambiguity in the rules.
  • Follow these twin goals in your own writing project.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Guidance Documents as Interpretation

  • In addition to simply explaining the rules, guidance documents also interpret the rules.
  • Guidance documents can address ambiguities in a regulation and explain what the agency thinks their regulation means.
  • In this way, guidance documents serve as an official interpretation of the regulation and provide an important legal function.
  • Guidance documents may have an important role in legal proceedings in which the meaning of regulations are at issue.
  • An agency’s interpretation of its own regulations is often important.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Guidance Documents as Interpretation

  • To give you an idea of why we need guidance documents, let’s look at a hypothetical situation.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the operation of national wildlife preserves.
  • The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is located near Corpus Christi.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Guidance Documents as Interpretation

  • Suppose the agency adopts the following rule:
  • Question: What counts as a vehicle?
    • SUV?
    • Bike?
    • Electric wheelchair?
    • Skateboard?
    • Golf cart?
  • The agency may publish a guidance document to clarify its intent in adopting this rule.
  • Thus, the guidance document may serve an important role in rule interpretation. For the purpose of this rule, the agency may interpret a “vehicle” to include only motorized vehicles. Or maybe anything with wheels.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document

  • Guidance documents are generally short guides to a set of regulations on a given topic or activity.
  • Length: 2-3 pages. But some are much longer, like a manual.
  • Usually organized by
    • a series of subject headings or
    • FAQstyle.
  • There is no set formula for a guidance document, but many have the following parts:
    • Title
    • Introduction
    • Definitions of terms or acronyms
    • A series of headings on what the rules require
  • We will talk about each of these.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Title

  • The title of a guidance document should explain what the document is about in concise terms.
  • The title page should also include a letter-head or logo of the agency issuing the regulation.
  • This shows that it is an official publication of the agency.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Title

  • The title usually includes a date and number.
    • The date is important because regulations are always changing.
    • Guidance documents tend to have a short shelf-life.
    • The date makes it clear that it is an explanation of regulations in effect on a certain date.
    • The agency does not want someone to find this document ten years later and think it is still current.
    • The number “RG-012” provides an easy way to reference the document.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Introduction

  • The introduction orients the reader to your subject in the first sentence:
    • “This is a guidance document about scrap tire recycling.”
  • They also usually contain a disclaimer. This disclaimer is not just bureaucratic jargon. It serves as an important reminder.
  • The purpose of this disclaimer is to make the role of a guidance document clear. It is not a rule, but the agency’s attempt to explain a rule.
  • Aguidance document is also not designed to constitute legal advice to a regulated entity.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Number

Date

Parts of a Guidance Document

Introduction

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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Definitions

  • Because guidence documents deal with technical information and terms, it is often conveninent to use abbreviations, specialized terms, and acroynms.
  • But recall from the discussion on plain language and audience that you should always define these terms when the audience is the general public.
    • You cannot assume that the reader knows what “MSW” or “APAR” means, even if everyone in the industry does.
    • Guidance documents should be addressed to the general public rather than industry insiders.
    • What if the reader is new to the industry?
  • Therefore, these documents may need a section that defines the technical terms or abbreviations used.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Definitions

“TCEQ”

“PPRW”

“UW”

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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Parts of a Guidance Document: Headings

  • As previously mentioned, guidance documents are typically organized by a series of subject headings that cover a particular rule or answer a particular question.
  • The latter is used if the guidance document is written as an “FAQ.”
  • The first heading usually describes what rules apply to the activity in general and provide an overview of those rules.
  • Subsequent headings then describe the particular requirements in more detail.
  • See this organization in the following document about environmental rules for car wash facilities.
slide18

An overview of the environmental requirements to operate a car wash

The specific rules explained in this document

slide19

Second major subject heading

Specific requirements from the regulations written in a plain-language style

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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Audience for Guidance Documents

  • As mentioned previously, guidance documents typically have two audiences:
    • the general public and
    • the regulated community.
  • In the previous example, the regulated community would be car wash operators.
  • Therefore, writers of guidance documents must use the technical language necessary to describe the activities of industry.
  • But at the same time, avoid confusing jargon. Thus, it is important to assume little knowledge and define terms.
  • Like the car wash example illustrates, it is also important to give the reader a sense of the big picture:
    • what are the major steps a car wash operator will have to take in order to comply with environmental rules?
  • Such information will provide a newcomer to the field with information to get started.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Example Document

  • Let’s look at some real-world examples.
  • See the links to the guidance documents in Week 13 of the schedule page.
  • Read over the OSHA Guide on Operator Qualifications for Cranes and Derricks.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Writing a Guidance Document

  • Our project for this unit is to write a guidance document.
  • Your job will be to review a set of regulations and translate that information into a readable document that provides the reader with an explanation of the requirements.
  • We will be using a question-and-answer format that appears on the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) website.
  • The TDLR regulates many assorted professions in Texas:
    • Barbers
    • Polygraph Examiners
    • Auctioneers
    • Etc.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Writing a Guidance Document

  • Our project concerns regulations related to operating a barber shop.
  • The TDLR has a question and answer guidance document on their website that explains some of the rules applicable to barbers.
  • Your job is essentially to add to this document by explaining rules on shop operations.
  • However, you don’t need to make a website. Turn in your project as a Word document.
  • Since you are adding to an existing document, you do not need to include the introduction.
  • Since this is an FAQ, you have to create the questions which the rules answer. (Assume those questions are frequently asked.)
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Writing a Guidance Document

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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

Writing a Guidance Document

  • Your job is to explain the rules. Explain means translate them into a plain language style.
  • You can’t simply cut and paste them into your document!
  • Your explanation must be complete: provide for all conditions and exceptions in the rules.
  • The assignment will provide you the citations to the rule. You must go to the Texas Administrative Code online to retrieve them.
  • (Remember, these are rules of the TDLR. That should help you locate them.)
  • Find a way to organize the information to make it accessible and readable. You should use formatting devices as you see fit, including bullet points, subject headings, or tables.
  • Copy the general style of the existing FAQ.
  • Your audience for this document is the general public and professionals.
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Administrative Policy WritingSpring 2012

We’re Done

  • Questions?
  • Comments?