Congress and Legislative Behavior
Legislative Proposal Project
Your legislative proposal, which constitutes 30% of your final grade, will consist of the following items. Please read this document thoroughly and note the internal deadlines for items 1 and 2. The entire project is due May 5, with in-class presentations on April 28.
1. Project calendar—due March 3
2. Proposal overview (“1-pager”). Deadlines: submit to your peer critic 4/14;.
a. This is the first document that a legislative staffer or coalition member would see and that s/he might hand over to the boss if the office or organization is interested;
b. It will include a one-sentence description of what you are trying to do (model after the short title of bills, e.g., A bill to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction);
c. A short statement of the problem (<4 sentences);
d. A short statement (<3 sentences) of where in federal law this lands (Internal Revenue Code, criminal code, other);
e. If applicable, a statement (1-2 paragraphs) re: where the money might come from, the revenue impact, and/or what law or program you will replace or eliminate, what executive branch agency will regulate, and any definitions you will create in federal law (for purposes of this section, “waterway” means a navigable body of water);
This document asks and answers both the attractive and the tough questions about your legislation. An effective Q&A will address a wide variety of topics, giving allies both ammunition to sell the bill (attractive questions) and assuage concerns or shut down opposition (tough questions).
(Attractive) How does the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act assist state and local authorities? The law provides vital financial and other resources, including access to forensic experts and labs, to law enforcement agencies at their request, enabling them to effectively investigate and prosecute major cases.
(Tough)Is the Act constitutional? Yes. In an opinion by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court concluded that hate crimes laws that target violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury do not violate criminal defendants’ First Amendment rights. Because crimes must have a nexus with interstate commerce to fall under this law, Congress’s authority to enact it is clear.
Draft an op-ed targeted to a specific audience. Op-eds are under 750 words. You will ghost write your op-ed for an outside spokesperson (community member, swing state voter, celebrity, business leader, etc.) for placement in a strategically-chosen publication (Wall Street Journal to reach businesses; Cleveland Plain Dealer to reach Ohio voters concerned about the economy). At the top of your op-ed you must include a statement regarding the audience you want to reach and why; the publication you chose and why; and the spokeperson’s name and background and the reason you chose him/her. This statement does not count toward your 750-word limit.
5. Talking points
A 1-2 page compilation of the affirmative messages your organization’s principal and your congressional champions should use in selling the proposal. These are one-sentence thesis statements followed by short (under three-sentence) explications.
–from a law student’s proposal to tax e-cigarettes to pay for universal preschool
E-cigarette devices are often marketed in clever ways to appeal to young audiences and avoid any negative association with traditional cigarettes.
E-cigarettes come in a variety of shapes, colors, and flavors, and go by various nicknames like “hookah pens” or “e-hookahs” or “vape pipes”.
Despite the colorful and flavorful disguise, e-cigarettes contain a mix of addictive nicotine and unregulated chemicals.
–From a law student’s proposal to limit solitary confinement of juveniles
• The ban on solitary confinement will make facilities safer.
o The ban will reduce the risk of violent behavior and self-harm by avoiding the devastating effects solitary confinement has on youth.
o Limited solitary confinement will still be permitted when necessary to prevent harm to youth and staff in detention facilities.
6. “Dear colleague” letter
This is a letter your lead sponsor (Senate or House) will send to potential co-sponsors.
Examples: Sen. Paul Issues Dear Colleague Opposing Syrian Intervention
Rep. Keith Ellison New Dear Colleague on H.R. 1213 Circulated, New Co-sponsor
7. Strategy memo
This memo will describe your pre-introduction plan, how you will roll out the legislation, your public education efforts, your coalition efforts, and your work to secure co-sponsors and build support in the first congress in which it will be introduced. It will answer at least the following questions:
a. Who will your lead sponsor be and why? Will there be companion bills in House and Senate and why?
b. Will you secure co-sponsors before introduction? Why?
c. When will you introduce this bill? Explain.
d. What kind of event, if any, will you hold for the introduction?
e. What kind of coalition do you plan to build? Will you assemble them before introduction and lobby the lead sponsor together, or bring them on board later? Why? What roles do you hope different coalition members will play? Who will lead the coalition?
f. Do you plan to focus your efforts on the Hill or on public education and research? Explain.
g. What kinds of reports and public educational materials will I produce?
h. Which activities will be lobbying activities and which will be (C)(3) activities?
In answering these questions, consider: What are your chances in the Current Congress? How to leadership dynamics in the House and Senate and the President’s policy positions affect this? Does some external circumstance (a school shooting, an upcoming Republican primary race) make this “my time?” How much does the public know about my issue? How enthusiastic is the public? What do I need to do to bring my issue to the top of the priority list? Are there must-pass bills onto which we could place my proposal? What am I trying to do here? Legislate? Move the conversation to the left or right? Force members to stand up and be counted before the next election? Demonstrate that my opponents are extreme before the next election?