The most important component to writing your bill is first selecting a topic that interests you. Of course, you must choose a topic that is within the jurisdiction of your committee, but having a serious interest in a particular public policy issue will go a long way towards strengthening both the content of the bill itself, as well as your ultimate presentation and defense of the bill during the conference. Conducting some preliminary research into the current activity of your committee is worthwhile, and both the U.S. House and Senate home pages are excellent resources for further information on pending legislation. THOMAS also lets you search for current and past congressional bills.
Drafting a bill is not difficult, although methodically organizing your thoughts into a coherent legislative template requires some planning and diligence. Let’s come back to the title a bit later and start with the preamble. A preamble, from the Medieval Latin word, praeambulum, meaning to walk in front, represents the introduction to, or prologue of your bill. Typically the preamble reads like a short narrative as it should present a general overview of the situation, or problem, that you address later in the body of your bill. Make sure to state the problem and explain why and how it needs to be resolved. If you are writing about nuclear proliferation, for example, a statement explaining the dangers of the spread of nuclear weapons, and the role and responsibilities of the U.S. Congress on the issue would be appropriate.
The body represents the core of your bill and is comprised of a series of clauses that constitute a plan of action. With each body clause, you must specify an action to be taken. Whether this action is the implementation of a tax, a foreign policy initiative such as an economic sanction, or the creation of a new governmental agency, the action should be stated clearly in the clause format. If you need to elaborate, or provide details to a statement, then a sub-clause could be added. Sub-clauses are typically used to provide definitions of terms, or to more thoroughly explain a potentially vague proposed action in the main clause.
The enactment clause marks the end of your bill and states when your bill will take effect. Enactment clauses usually read, “If passed this bill will take effect in (insert number) days.” Delegates should know that any bill to be enacted in 90 days or less is considered emergency legislation, which requires a 2/3 majority to pass in committee. Any bill enacted after 90 days, however, merely needs the ½, or simple majority vote to pass.
We recommend titling your bill last. This way you can ensure that your title accurately reflects the content of your bill. Delegates often have a general idea of what they hope to address in a bill and are quick to formulate a title. Only after the bill has taken on a life of its own, and has veered away from the original intent of the title, do delegates realize that a title change is necessary. The preamble should provide a good foundation for a title. If, instead of a bill, you would like to propose a Resolution during committee session, please title your Resolution, "A Resolution to..." instead of "An Act to..." as those who are writing a bill are required to title their legislation. If, instead of a bill, you would like to propose a Constitutional Amendment during committee session, please title your proposed amendment, "A Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution to..." and include an additional sentence alongside "Be it hereby resolved by the Penn Model Congress" that says, "The Constitution of the United States shall stand amended as follows."