In order to successfully put this lesson into practice an educator should be familiar with how Congress works and the process by which a bill becomes a law.
* Identify a persistent issue that involve individual rights or improve the general welfare of society
* Explore foundational documents (US Constitution) and tie issue to it in order to explain how its passage will affect public policy
* Discover how party affiliation determines the issues and voting behavior of representatives
* Identify leadership positions in the House and the Senate
* Explain the value of the committee and caucus system to Congress as a whole
* Identify the first stages of the lawmaking process in both the House and the Senate
* Review what happens to a bill during debate
* Experience the role of a Senator sponsoring bill and how they vote
How does a bill become a law?
Sample bill (attached) A computer lab - not necessary but helpful for research and final drafts
Students study the Chapter on Congress and lawmaking in their texts prior to participating in this activity so they have a basic understanding before their experience.
Day 1: Introduce activity - handout
* Student may work with a partner - discuss persistent issues - get organized so they are ready for the computer lab.
Description: For this task you will the opportunity to act as a member of the Senate and have the policy making experience that is part of our democratic system of government
1. (Day 2 - computer lab)Begin by researching a senator's background, political ideology, legislative history (voting record, bills sponsored), and the demographics of the state he/she represents. You will also need to select and research an issue of particular interest to this senator/you, and identify its compatibility with the senator's party's platform. You may want to look at bills that have been authored or supported by the senator you are researching.
2. (Day 3- computer lab) Create a bill as if you were this senator. The bills should be related to the senator's, state party, and/or personal causes. A format of how your written bill should look is attached. The bills must deal with persistent issues that involve individual rights or imporve the general welfare of society, tie to the foundational documents, particularly the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and clearly explain how its passage will affect public policy.
All bills begin as stated in lines 1-3. Then, the intent of the bill is stated (possible consequence may be listed if law is broken), followed by its connection to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, followed by an explanation of reasoning behind the bill.
Committee Assigned _____________________
IN THE SENATE
Trent Lot (Senator) introduced the following bill
To ban flag burning (topic)
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled that beginning January 1, 2009 the burning of the American flag shall be against the law; punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a $500 dollar fine. Burning the American flag is not a freedom of speech issue and, therefore, is not protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The founding fathers encouraged Freedom of Speech to allow for discussion of issues that would encourage all sides of an issue to be discussed freely and openly by the citizens of this country. Burning of the American flag does not encourage discussion, rather, it encourages anger and polarization of an issue. This results in less discussion of an issue which is contrary to the First Amendment.
3. (Day 4 - classroom) The bills will be shared with small groups of your classmates with similar party affiliation (committees). At this time you will use each other's feedback to clarify the bills, and ensure they meet the criteria in step two. (Day 5 - computer lab) After the committees have met, revise your bills as necessary based on the feedback you receive.
4. (Day 6/7 - classroom) Your bills will then be presented to class, as if you were the senator presenting them on the Congressional floor. Senators will have the opportunity to debate the bill and the floor will be open for questions and comment. After debate subsides, a vote will be taken. Your bill will either pass or die (if it dies, it will not affect your grade...remember most bills die 11,000 introduced annually only 200 may pass)
5. (Day 8 - computer lab or on their own - due) Through the process, you will be keeping a journal that will also be handed in with the final draft of your bill. The journal must have the following entries:
a. How is your bill a persistent issue?
b. How does if affect individuals and the general welfare of society?
c. How does your senator's status have an effect on bill passage?
d. How does your senator's party affiliation have an effect on bill passage?
e. How can ordinary citizens impact bill passage?
f. Did working in committees with your classmates prove to be helpful in the final drafting of your bill?
You are not limited to these topics, but these six must be included.
Bill activity = 50 points (similar to a test score)
All parts of the activity must be turned in on time and must be typed!
1. Senator background report _
2. Rough Draft of bill - signed by committee chair _
3. Final Draft of bill - with revisions _
4. Presentation - defense of bill _
5. Journal _
Answer Key or Rubric:
Benchmark or Standards:
United States Citizenship