When In Doubt…

JeevesAsk Jeeves.

Remember my “quest” for information on how to get a day/week/month for your cause?  Well, I was curled up on the couch, vaporizing* myself at 4:00am this morning, and I figured why not do some Internet research? (I’m sick, OK?)

I deliberately avoided the dot gov sites and tried AskJeeves.com. I typed in my question and Jeeves led me to a number of sites that were actually helpful in finding out what I wanted to know. The dude is in the UK, and yet he is more helpful than our own government sites – go figure.

I still nodded off about 5 times while gathering facts. Redundant and over chatty pages (I’m within the dot gov ones at this point) slowed me down, but at last I now have some information for us. Not only that, but it’s in a form that I can easily translate into common English (i.e. American).

Information taken from David Silverberg’s “Building a Bill In Congress- for Dummies

It all starts with an idea, a simple concept. You take that idea to your representative  because you see a need, you have a cause, and you want it to become a law.

Only members of Congress can propose resolutions that are considered by the entire body. Your task comes down to convincing a Congressperson to actually want to introduce your idea.

Anyone can write up, or draft a bill, but only a member of Congress can introduce it. However, the more work that you do for members, the easier it is for them to work on your behalf. When you have a bill that you want Congress to consider, writing it up in legal language and presenting it to your representative or senator as a draft is a good idea. Lobbyists routinely draft legislative proposals.

Figuring out how to write a bill is easy. Just look up an existing bill on the congressional Web site and follow that format to compose your proposal. Although your representative may make a few changes, he and the staff won’t have to do as much work creating the bill by themselves.

At another helpful place I found formats to use when writing a Bill & Fact Sheet:

Bill Format
Title: An Act to __________________________   Title should not be too specific but give an accurate statement of what the bill will do.

Preamble: Your only opportunity in the bill itself to make an argument about why the bill is important and good. Consists of 2 or 3 clauses that begin with phrases such as “given that” or “recognizing that.”

Section 1: States the main purpose of the bill.

Section 1A: If you want to clarify something about Section 1, use a subsection.

Section 1B: If there is more to clarify, use another subsection. Remember, if you have a Subsection A, you need at least a Subsection B. Add as many subsections as needed  If you only need one subsection, you just make it the next section.

Section 2: This is where you present the next part of your bill.  You can use subsections here as well, they follow the same rules.  For the rest of the sections explaining your bill, use this format.

Section 3: Enactment clause.  This is the last section of your bill (not always Section 3).  In this section, you state how long it will take for the bill to go into effect.  Often it is 91 days.  Anything less is considered emergency legislation and requires a 2/3 vote to pass

How to Write a Fact Sheet
– The goal of the fact sheet is to provide arguments in favor of your bill. The bill can only say what you wish to do; the fact sheet tells us why you wish to do it.- The information should cause the reader to come to the conclusion that your bill is absolutely necessary.-State the problem your bill solves, why the problem must be solved, and what may happen if the problem is not solved.

– Numbers and statistics should be used frequently! Also, all information should be stated in a brief and concise manner.

-Make sure that the information you cite is RECENT!

– You are NOT making conclusions or providing analysis regarding them. The information should cause the reader to come to the conclusion that your bill is absolutely necessary.

– Remember! Your fact sheet essentially sells your bill!

– It is important that you cite your sources! Make sure to use multiple credible sources such as magazines and newspapers. Not random websites; internet sites are fine as long as they are from widely recognized and accepted sites.

– If an entire section comes from one source, then you can put one footnote on the heading for that section. If each fact came from a different source, cite each accordingly (with footnotes).

– A fact sheet should look organized and impressive. You want people to read it so the information should be organized in a “user-friendly” and easily understandable format. Avoid large blocks of text.

– Put the name of the bill author, the committee, the bill title, the name of the congress, and “Fact Sheet” at the top of your fact sheet.

– The fact sheet should be divided into a few sections, and there should be a clear heading for each section. Each of these sections should contain at least two facts.

– If you wish to make the headings in the form of questions, make sure all of your headings are in the form of questions- be consistent!!!

– The individual facts should be bulleted, and each one should be no more than two lines (at most three lines).

Sample Fact Sheet

Samantha Fishbein
Penn Model Congress
Committee: Education and the Workforce
Title: An Act to Ban Abstinence-Only Sex Education

What Is the Definition of Abstinence-Only Sex Education?1
• The sole purpose of sex education should be to teach the social, psychological, and health benefits from abstaining from sexual activity.
• It teaches that abstaining from sexual activity outside marriage is the standard norm, and that once two people are married, a faithful, monogamous relationship is expected.
• It teaches that abstinence is the only way to avoid premarital pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and that having a child out of wedlock is harmful to the child, the parents, and society.

How Widespread is Abstinence-Only Sex Education?
• In the past five years, approximately $500 million in federal and state matching funds have been spent on abstinence-only education.
o The federal government matches state funds for abstinence-only programs.
o Due to this stipulation, money been diverted away from comprehensive sex education.
• Fewer than half of U.S. public schools offer information on how to obtain birth control, and only a third include discussions of abortion and sexual orientation in their curricula.How Effective is Abstinence-Only Sex Education?
• Several studies has shown that abstinence-only education does not decrease teen pregnancy or the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections.3
• A study at Columbia University found that while virginity “pledge” programs led some participants to delay sex, 88% still had premarital sex, and their rates of sexually transmitted diseases were not significantly different from those who did not pledge.3
• When students who received an abstinence-only education become sexually active, they often fail to use contraception because they are unsure how to do so.2What Benefits Lie in Alternative Comprehensive Sex Education?
• Comprehensive sex education includes a variety of topics related to human development, relationships, sexual behavior, and sexual culture.  It teaches that abstinence is the best method to prevent STDs and pregnancy, but also how to use contraception.4
• Teaching students about contraception has led to a 55% drop in teen pregnancies and a significant delay in the onset of sexual intercourse.5
• People who receive this type of education are more likely to delay sexual activity and to use protection correctly and consistently when they become sexually active.4___________________________________________________________________________
1Title IX, Section 912 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

Okay. Now we know what to do when the urge to make something a law hits us 😉

* Vaporizing: the act of boiling water to create moist steam in the air. Used to treat respiratory infections and croup. In case you didn’t know.