University of California, Santa Barbara

Political Science 155: Writing Legislation

Bills in SimCong typically deal with current issues. Students should not introduce bills on subjects that have already been addressed by Congress. The problem is that when such a bill would come up for a vote, students could look up how their characters voted in the real Congress. Instead, we want legislators to think for themselves and base their votes on their district interests and their characters' political views.

Bills in SimCong are typically short. Except for the budget, most bills range from three to fifteen pages. To keep bills short and manageable, most bills deal with single subjects or at most with two, related subjects. For example, rather than trying to design a law to solve America's energy problems, a bill in SimCong might simply open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil leasing. Alternatively, an energy bill might open ANWR for oil development, and increase fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards at the same time--thereby giving something to both pro-development and pro-environment forces. Elaborate bills such as the real energy legislation debated by Congress during the Bush administration are too complex for the simulation.

In order to reduce the length and complexity of legislation, references to sections of existing law are generally omitted. For example, in H.R. 835 (which is reprinted in the SimCong manual), the first lines of the bill are: "That section 320(a)(2)(B) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1330(a)(2)(B)) is amended by ..." The references to the code are neither needed nor expected.

Bills are typically divided into sections. Here are some typical sections:

Definitions may not be needed. In real legislation, they are written to be used in court. You may not need any definitions.

The authorization section or sections (which are often given titles related to the substance of the bill) set out the changes in law. For example, they might making human cloning illegal or allow drilling in ANWR. If a bill establishes a new government agency, please be sure to identify the federal department in which it will be located and who will oversee the agency or program. For example, if a bill creates a new program to encourage green construction methods in office buildings, the bill should identify the department running the program (EPA perhaps). In addition, the bill may need to identify a person in change (e.g., "The Environmental Protection Agency administrator shall be responsible for ...").

If a bill requires funding, the bill should authorize the appropriation of funds for the program. In a separate piece of legislation handled by the Appropriations Committee, the funding should be appropriated for the program.

For examples of actual bills, see the congressional web pages. Some examples of SimCong bills are listed below.

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