Proposing Legislation to Congress

Federal legislation is introduced as a proposal by either a Senator or a Representative in the House of Representatives. Before a bill can actually become a law, the proposal must be passed by the Senate as well as the House by a majority vote. It must then be signed into law by the president, or a presidential veto must be overridden by a 2/3 vote of Congress. While legislation must be introduced by a legislator, anyone can actually initiate proposing legislation to Congress.

This is sometimes done by a lobbyist but there is nothing that precludes an ordinary citizen from taking action as well. The process is simple and straightforward; contact and persuade at least one Member of Congress to take some type of action.

The U.S. Capitol
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindooley

To begin, you must have the correct information for the three congressional representatives within your state. There are two Senators for each state, and each citizen has a single Representative in the House (look up your Representative by zip code).

A written proposal can be sent to your state’s three congressional representatives. The best course of action is to contact one of your representative’s offices and then schedule a meeting when you can present and discuss your proposal. You can also request a telephone conference so that you can discuss the proposal with your representative.

Keep in mind that Members of Congress have significant demands upon their time, and you will probably deal with a staffer. Therefore, you may need to follow-up several times in order to ensure that your meeting is scheduled. Once you do have an appointment, remember that the amount of time allotted is likely to be limited. You will need to present as much information as possible within the constraints of that appointment. Conducting research ahead of time can help you to develop a solid proposal.

Along with proposing actual legislation, you can also suggest amendments to existing proposals that are being considered for legislation. You will need to ensure you have the correct bill number ahead of time (use Thomas). Before contacting your legislator regarding the amendments you would like to see made to the proposed legislation, consider providing information regarding alternative legislation that is specific and concise. Be clear regarding the alternative bill that you would like to see proposed.

Not only should you provide the change that you would like to see take place, but also reasons why you believe the alternative language for the proposed legislation should be presented. Our course, Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, can provide you with further insight regarding the legislative process.

Courses

Publications



Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide


Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: Citizen Advocacy in State Legislatures and Congress: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates


Testifying Before Congress


The Federal Budget Process: A description of the federal and congressional budget processes, including timelines

CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net






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