How to Write a Bill for State Legislature

By John Shortino - Updated June 20, 2017
Woman thinking and writing notes

Writing a bill for your state legislature is one way for concerned citizens or groups to have a direct impact on government. While citizens or organizations cannot introduce a bill — only a legislator can do that — writing a bill is a good way to begin the legislative process. What you write can affect the way state senators or representatives make decisions. The more preparation you put into a bill before presenting it to legislators that you want to sponsor it, the more likely they will be to help with your cause.

Research any previous legislation on the issue that is the subject of your bill. This could include laws in your own state, laws in other states, and federal laws regarding similar issues. For example, a law in one state banning the sale of fireworks might be a model for a similar law in your state. If you do find laws in other states similar to the law you want, try to find out how effective such laws have been.

Look up background information pertaining to your issue. For example, if you wanted to write a bill to provide incentives for keeping businesses in the state, relevant background information might include unemployment rates, corporate taxes and data about businesses moving out of the state.

Contact several lawmakers who might be willing to sponsor your bill. In state legislatures, many bills that are introduced never even get voted on by either of two houses of the legislature. Many bills never get out of committee and get to the floor of either house. The more sponsors you can get, the better the chances that the bill will be treated seriously, recommended by committees, put to a vote by the full state Senate and the full lower house (which in most states in called the House of Representatives) and passed into law.

Begin the bill with a preamble, briefly explaining the reasons behind the bill. Since a bill should be presented as a legal document, clauses should begin with "Whereas," followed by the reason.

Write the body of the bill. This should be broken into sections, with each section outlining a specific provision of the bill. For example, the first section might be the name of the bill, and each section that follows it would be a single piece of the bill.

Finish the bill with an enactment clause, which can be a section of the body of the bill. This states when the bill would take effect if it is passed.

Tip

Before you start writing your bill, get some copies of existing bills before the legislature to give you some ideas on how to structure you bill and what sort of wording to use.

Before offering your bill to potential sponsors, you might want to show it to someone who knows a lot about the legislative process and who knows a lot about your state legislature. Such a person should be able to give you helpful advice.

About the Author

John Shortino has written for numerous publications, including the "Philadelphia Inquirer." Some of the subjects he has written about professionally include books, film and business. He is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Temple University.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article