The Bill Writing Process
Choose a Topic
You will work on actually writing your own proposed law, or bill. The information you gather in this phase will help ensure you write a bill that will appeal to members of Model Legislature from around the state.
Choose a topic for your bill from the list below. By clicking on the different topics, you can view web resources and political cartoons that will help you with your research.
- Civil Liberties and Constitutional Issues - Civil liberties are freedoms protected by the Constitution. Examples are the freedoms of speech, religion, and the press and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. If you are interested in current issues like religious exemptions or freedom of speech on public school campuses, this is the topic for you. This topic also includes intellectual property.
- Civil Rights - Civil rights are those rights that belong to all citizens regardless of race, gender, age, or national origin. They relate to freedom from unequal treatment. If you want to address the voting age, the rights of the disabled, LGBTQ rights, or affirmative action, this is the topic you should select.
- Criminal Justice - This topic is for those interested in the death penalty, penalties for crimes, victims' rights, and juvenile justice.
- Economy - The economy is usually the most influential issue for voters in presidential elections, so if you have a great idea for tax reform or a solution for inflation, this is the topic you should research.
- Education - Students can tell politicians a lot about education! This is the topic to pick if you want to address standardized testing, teacher training and salaries, school start times, college scholarships, or vocational training.
- Environment and Energy - Do you believe we need to do a better job of protecting the natural world, or do you think Americans focus enough or too much time and money on environmental regulations? If you want to learn more about natural resources, energy, land use and property rights, or animal habitats and welfare, choose this topic.
- Gun Control - How much freedom should Americans have when it comes to purchasing and using guns? This topic is the source of a lot of controversy in our society. Research gun control and propose a solution of your own.
- Health and Safety - Many people suffer illness, injury, or even death because of sometimes-preventable risks, from unsafe driving to unhealthy habits. What do you propose to improve the health of Americans? What role, if any, do you think the government should have in health care?
- Immigration- Whether our families moved here 200 years ago or 10 years ago, almost every American arrived through immigration. Should we restrict immigration, or should we welcome all immigrants to the United States?
- Reproductive and Personal Rights - This topic includes controversial issues such as abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and assisted suicide. Note: In past years student legislators have submitted a large number of bills on abortion. Because there are so many, these bills may be less likely to be reviewed by other students in the Committee Phase.
- Social Programs - Our government has a variety of social, cultural, and scientific goals - from tackling poverty and urban sprawl to establishing museums and exploring space. What programs would you like to see established, or what existing programs do you think need an update?
The next step is to begin thinking about how you will use this information to write a bill to submit for consideration.
How will you address this issue in writing a bill of your own? For example, if you selected the environment as your topic, you probably realize that you could write several bills; pollution in our waterways, research into alternative sources of energy, and endangered plants and animals are just a few.
Like you, our legislators face this decision every day when attempting to write legislation. Factors for you to consider when selecting a bill to write are listed below, along with student sample legislation from earlier sessions.
Identify State and Local Issues
Your bill will get the most support from students in other parts of the state when they feel that it matters to them, too.
Student Sample: One e-Legislator wrote a great bill to allow local municipalities to regulate the use of fireworks in their communities. This bill passed because students felt it was important that each local jurisdiction be able to make the decision for themselves rather than have a statewide mandate.
Needs of Your Constituents
Remember that a constituent is a person who is represented by a specific elected official. In the model legislature, your constituents are your fellow e-Legislators, students from schools all over the state.
Student Sample: One e-Legislator authored a bill to increase the state minimum wage because he knew his peers (constituents) were interested in earning more money in the part-time jobs they held after school.
Personal Interest or Expertise
Many Members of the Georgia Legislature write legislation based on an area where they have specific knowledge or interest. For example, Representative Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), a farmer, co-sponsored a bill to remove zoning laws and regulations in regards to agricultural operations and facilities for those in their first year of operation.
Student Sample: Another e-Legislator had a personal interest in texting while driving as her brother had been killed in an accident wherein he was texting while driving. The bill was written to make it illegal and punishable to text while driving in the state of Georgia. (Side note: this bill is now an ACTUAL Law known as Caleb’s Law)
Political Party Affiliation
Members of the Legislature often sponsor legislation that is a priority to their political party.
Student Sample: One e-Legislator chose to draft hate crime legislation. He was inspired by personal experience, and he also knew that this issue was an important one to the members of his political party.
Often, bills in the Legislature reflect events in the news or trends in society.
Student Sample: One student felt that Georgia should establish a Civic Education Fund for the purpose of supporting and improving citizenship education. This bill would create funding opportunities for nonprofit organizations and schools seeking to address this.
Feel free to come up with a creative approach to solving a tough problem.
Student Sample: One year a student was bothered that the privacy laws did not protect women from having recordings (still or otherwise) of the area of their body which would be covered by a skirt, known as “upskirting.” She wrote a piece of legislation to create a law making this behavior illegal and punishable. (The bill passed unanimously among her peers and the ACTUAL Legislature passed a similar version in the very next session).
How is the research topic that you chose being addressed by Members of the Legislature? You should identify what bills are currently being debated in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and find out what . You may use any of the options below.
Option One: Access LegiScan, an impartial and nonpartisan legislative tracking and reporting service utilizing GAITS and LegiScan API. You can search all bills by session or search by keyword. This is a free database.
Option Two: Access The Georgia Recorder
The Georgia Recorder is an independent, nonprofit news organization that is focused on connecting public policies to stories of the people and communities affected by them. We bring a fresh perspective to coverage of the state’s biggest issues from our office a few blocks from Georgia’s Gold Dome.
Option Three: Access LexisNexis-Georgia General Assembly.
Option Four: Access Georgia Public Broadcasting Lawmakers.
Did you know that all laws in the United States must agree with the Constitution? In addition to the US Constitution, state laws must also agree with the State Constitution. Sometimes legislators pass a law with a conflict, but the law can then be challenged in court. If the Supreme Court decides that a challenged law is unconstitutional, it cannot take effect.
For example, in August 2015, an officer with Athens-Clarke County Police pulled Andrea Elliot over after allegedly seeing her commit several traffic violations, including failing to maintain a lane. Elliot admitted she’d had alcohol earlier in the day. The officer, allegedly smelling booze and seeing signs of impairment, arrested her and read her Georgia’s so-called “implied consent notice.” The notice lets a driver know his or her refusal to submit to testing “may be offered into evidence against you at trial.”
She refused. Her attorney, Greg Willis, submitted a motion in Clarke County, arguing that using the refusal at trial would be unconstitutional. The local court ruled against him and he appealed to the state’s highest court.
By taking up the case, the Georgia Supreme Court was agreeing to consider whether it had correctly decided a 2017 ruling that said drivers can’t be forced to submit to breath tests. In the 2019 decision, the justices stood by the previous ruling, saying forcing a person to take a breath test constitutes forcing them to conduct a potentially incriminating act. Therefore the “implied consent” notice was found to be unconstitutional.
If you think your bill might have a conflict, you can still write it. However, you need to consider that your fellow Legislators may be less interested in a bill that could be unconstitutional.
If you want to protect your bill from a Constitutional challenge, consider setting limits on behavior instead of banning it outright. For example, while the law states they have a right to refuse breath testing, it could have stated that the testing would be allowed with a warrant or court order obtained by the law enforcement office. Also, keep in mind that a potential fight in court will add to the estimated cost of your bill, as you will need to pay for legal fees.