Birth of a Bill

A WebQuest for U.S. Government

Designed by

Kai Frick

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


Introduction

Special interest groups write nearly half of the 10,000 bills that the House of Representatives and the Senate consider passing into law each congressional term.  Interest groups cannot, however, actually introduce bills into Congress themselves.  Instead, they must convince one or more lawmakers to sponsor and introduce the bills that they developed and wrote.In this activity, your team represents the staff of a major special interest group in the United States. You will be working to answer the following two questions:    
  1. What bill could we write that would promote the beliefs of our interest group?
  2. What could we say in a letter to a lawmaker that would convince them to introduce this bill into Congress?

The Task

Your goal is to develop and write a bill that would help to promote the causes and beliefs of your interest group. You must also write a cover letter that you will send along with the bill to a lawmaker, attempting to convince the lawmaker to sponsor and introduce your bill into Congress.  


The Process

Your team must work together on all stages of the process. However, one team member will act as the manager of the entire project, while other team members will each act as the leader of one of the four steps in the process. Your team needs to decide who will assume each of the following roles.  

Manager
--coordinates between group members
--keeps group members on task
--monitors time and speed of work
--ensures continuity between the bill and the letter to produce a polished
   final product

Chief Interest Group Researcher
--locates, reads, and records pertinent information from websites related to the interest group 

Chief Bill Researcher
--locates, reads, and records pertinent information from websites
  regarding old bills

Chief Bill Writer
--composes and types the words for the bill

Chief Letter Writer
--composes and types the words for the cover letter   Follow the steps below to complete this activity:

STEP ONE:  Choose an Interest Group and a Bill

1)  As a whole team, choose ONE of the following 10 interest groups.  This will be the organization that your team works for during the rest of this activity, so try to pick one with issues that excite you.

Click on the website of your interest group.  Do research on the basic beliefs and causes of the organization.  Take notes as you go. Discuss a law you think this interest group might want Congress to pass.  Decide on the topic of just ONE law. This law must relate to the interest group's goals.

STEP TWO:  Research Old Bills

1)  It would be pointless to write a bill that Congress already passed or is currently debating.  Therefore, your team needs to determine if Congress has already passed or is currently debating the bill you want to pass. Also, it is useful to research bills that are related to your topic to help clarify exactly what your law would promote. Adjust the topic of your bill appropriately as you go. If Congress already passed a bill that you were planning to write, change the topic of your bill. 

2) The Library of Congress created a search engine that was specifically designed to research past and current legislation.  Donít forget to search under all of the years available.  Take notes as you go. 

Thomas Search Engine

STEP THREE:  Writing the Bill

1)  The chief bill writer should work with other group members to write the bill that your interest group would like Congress to pass.  Make sure your bill suggests a clear, simple action or policy that would be easy for the government to implement.  This suggested action must match the goals of your interest group.  Use Microsoft Word to type your bill in the appropriate format.

2)  Click on the following website for instructions on how to write a bill. 

Bill Writing Instructions

3)  It would also be helpful to look at sample of bills that have already been written to serve as a model for your bill.  You could go back to the Thomas Search Engine.  Or click on one of the model bill below.

Model Bill
 

STEP FOUR: Writing the Cover Letter

1)  The chief letter writer should work with other group members to write the cover letter that will accompany the bill you send to Congress. Remember that although special interest groups can write a bill, only members of Congress can actually introduce the bill into Congress. The cover letter that you send needs to persuade the lawmaker that society would benefit from your bill. This type of persuasion is called lobbying. Make sure you also include a brief introduction to the basic beliefs of your interest group.

2)  Use the following websites to research tips on writing letters to Congress. Follow the advice that these sites give.

Tips for Writing Congress #1
Tips for Writing Congress #2

3) Choose one member of Congress to be the recipient of your letter and bill. This lawmaker should have a powerful position on the committee that is most closely related to your bill. You could send your bill to either a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate.  Use the following websites to research the appropriate committee for your bill. Once in these sites, find the name of a powerful person on the committee. This will be the lawmaker to which you send your bill and letter.

House Committees
Senate Committees

4)  Research the address of your lawmaker on the following website. Make sure you include this address in the appropriate business letter format. Use Microsoft Word to type the letter.

Clerk's Office


Evaluation

Each group will be evaluated according to the following rubric.

Please note:  This lesson aligns with the U.S. Government Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.4.  The student will explain roles and analyze strategies individuals or groups may use to initiate change in governmental policy and institutions.

 

Beginning
1

Developing
2

Accomplished
3

Exemplary
4

Score

Research 

incomplete or incorrect information

basic information with little or no details

accurate information with some details

accurate information with lots of details

 

Bill

no suggested action or policy

complex, confusing suggestions for actions and policies

sensible suggestions for actions and policies

clear, simple, feasible suggestions for actions and policies

 

Letter

irrelevant information

basic information with little or no support

persuasive words with some support

effective, persuasive words with lots of support

 

Cooperation & Teamwork

-members fail to carry out assigned roles

-lots of arguments

-inability to resolve disputes

-members carry out some of the duties in their assigned roles

-some arguments

-difficulty resolving disputes

-members carry out assigned roles

-cooperation and team work

-compromises

-members successfully carry out assigned role

-high level of cooperation and teamwork

-successful compromises

 
     

Conclusion

At the end of this activity, you should have learned in detail about the beliefs of one of the major interest groups in the United States. Also, you will know how to search for copies of past and current legislation. By looking at examples of real bills, you will be able to suggest more realistic legislation to your Representative or Senator either as a private citizen or as a member of an interest group. Also, you will have gained practice exercising your democratic right inform your Representative or Senator of your beliefs in a letter. The persuasive lobbying skills that you learned in this activity will help you influence the government more successfully. As an extension of this activity, consider the following questions:1)  Do lobbyists and special interest groups have too much influence over the government?2) Are there any interest groups you think you might want to join when you are an adult?

Credits & References

Image of a Bill.  ďAmerica RockĒ (video), Scholastic Rock, Inc.  1995

Thanks to Kim Champagne for all of her assistance.


Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page