How to write your bill

How do you write your own bill to become law? Bill writing is a major component of our legislative process in the United States. It serves to create, amend, or abolish laws.

What is your idea?

It all starts with an idea. You see a need or have a cause, and you want it to become a law. The good news is that anyone can draft a bill, but know that only a member of Congress can introduce it. Many laws are already in place, but these can be amended and improved. Your idea for a bill has be for either a law that does not yet exist or an amendment to an existing law. This requires research and planning to make your ideas become actionable.

What type of bill?

First, you must know what type of bill you want? Each type can have an impact on your particular campaign strategy.

  • Standalone bill – A single issue bill focusing on your topic.
  • Omnibus bill – A single bill packing several different measures.
  • Conference bill – Used to reconcile language when chambers don’t match.
  • Placeholder bill – For when you don’t have bill language ready, but need to meet a bill filing deadline.
  • Amendments – Changes to bills, which happens in a committee. Your bill language could tag onto another bill already in committee.
  • Resolutions –Expresses opinions in chamber. The least ideal type with less concrete action.

What type of votes?

You will also need to plan what kind of vote you want your bill to have (and can get).

  • Hotlining – When a non-controversial bill is fast-tracked by party leadership, sent by an email system to all party members. No objection = passes.
  • Unanimous consent – A vote without dissent (the dream!)
  • Voice vote – When members vocalize their support by saying “yea” or “nay”‘s and the names or tallies are not recorded.
  • Roll call vote – When the names or tallies of members voting on each side is recorded, also called an “on the record” vote.

You law is for now and for posterity

It’s also paramount to not just think of how the bill will be received today, but also decades later. You want to be clear, concise, and inclusive in your language. Consider:

  • What will the name of your bill be?
  • Will it be inclusive? If so, how do you plan on making it inclusive?
  • Will it be bipartisan?
  • Who are you guaranteeing these rights for?
  • Is it a general law or special law, applying to a particular person, place, or interest?
  • How can you be as clear as possible to ensure your legislative intent comes across correctly, even decades later?
  • How can you work around obstacles to achieve your goals? (See Weinberger v. Weisenfeld or The United States v. Morrison)

Want to be part of the only incubator for changemakers writing their own bills? Learn more about Rise Justice Labs. Our goal is to demystify the path we’ve walked, helping new people and new causes make their way through the obstacle courses of bill drafting, committee hearings, and vote-whipping that exist in every state.

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