Just like the efforts of the United States Congress or a state legislature, high school student congress competitions depend on the contributions of senators or representatives. Writing your own legislation is one of the best ways to excel at this debate event. Participants commonly write two types of legislation: resolutions and bills. Bills detail how the congress will enact a law or policy and should include enforcement, budget and other necessary stipulations.
Brainstorming and Research
Brainstorm to identify societal or governmental problems and possible solutions that you or other students would like to debate.
Choose a problem and solution that leaves room for debate. For example, a bill to legalize marijuana has plenty of ground both for and against the solution. Conversely, a bill to cure cancer is a more difficult proposition because no one will want to argue against it.
Search the Internet or other reference materials for information about your topic. Consult periodical databases such as Lexis-Nexis, Ebscohost and JSTOR.
Compare your ideas with laws that have been proposed and enacted in your state house and the U.S. Congress. The Library of Congress keeps a free database of U.S. Congressional Bills called THOMAS.
Writing a Bill
Title your bill, beginning with the words "A Bill to ...": for instance, "A Bill to Ban Texting While Driving" or "A Bill to Mandate Eighth-Graders Receive HPV Vaccinations." Center your title in the middle of the page.
Number each line of your bill. Count each line of the bill, not each sentence. Add a few spaces or a tab between the number and the text.
Begin Line 1 with the phrase, "Be it enacted by the student congress here assembled that . . . " and finish that sentence with a few words summarizing your proposed law. Do not type any part of this sentence in all capital letters or in bold print.
Follow this sentence with a succinct explanation of what your bill would do.
Include any of the four sections listed below to improve understanding or debate of the bill. A concluding statement is not necessary or desirable.
Writing the Four Sections
Type "Section 1:" on the next new line. After the colon, begin stipulating exactly what your law will do and require. Section 1 may include a subsection explaining vocabulary or special terms and a subsection listing additional requirements for your law. Each subsection should be labeled "Subsection 1a," "Subsection 1b" and so forth.
Type "Section 2:" on a new line. After the colon, carefully explain who will enforce your law and how. Additional subsections can explain whether multiple agencies will enforce different aspects of the law. For example, a law requiring a vaccine may require one agency to purchase the vaccine and another organization to administer it.
Type "Section 3:" on a new line. After the colon, describe the funding for your law. Every bill needs start-up funds. Criminal laws and other prohibitive bills might have consequences such as jail or fines, which you can include as an additional funding source for the bill. Include multiple subsections for penalties.
Type "Section 4: This bill will be enacted on . . . " and whatever future date you deem appropriate on the next new line. Laws are often enacted on Jan. 1; at the start of a fiscal year on July 1; and occasionally at the start of the school year on Aug. 1 or Sept. 1.
Things You Will Need
- Pencil and paper
- Write student congress bills over the summer.
- capitol image by Andrew Breeden from Fotolia.com