West Chicago American Government Legislative
The West Chicago Community High School Legislative Semester is an integral part of the American Government curriculum involving all government classes. The Legislative Simulation attempts to approximate, with as much authenticity as possible, the structure and politics of the legislative process. Students take on political leadership and legislative organizational responsibilities that allow them to assume control of the Simulation as they engage in decision making processes common to a democratic society.
The Simulation culminates in a one day Committee Session and a two day reenactment of the House of Representatives in Full Session. The organizing activities and procedures require approximately fifteen weeks of class time. The following categories identify the major organizing activities.
Organization and Leadership Opportunities
Students from all the government sections (classes) are divided into two groups based on their decision to be a Democrat or Republican. Elections determine who will fill the legislative leadership positions. Elections for Floor Leader are 'party elections'. Democrats and Republicans together elect the Speaker of the House. The elected leadership team must consist of students committed to the principles of their political party. They must also have a comprehensive understanding of the rules and procedures that govern the Legislative Semester. A pamphlet describing the roles associated with each elected position will be available for each student. A list of the elected positions follows along with a list of positions appointed by the leadership
Elected Leadership Positions:
1. Speaker of the House (1): The chairperson for the full session. Will be responsible for enforcing the rules of the simulation in the full session.
2. Minority Floor Leader (1): Will organize the debate for the minority party during the full session
3. Majority Floor Leader (1): Will organize the debate for the majority party during the full session
4. Rules Committee (1 per class): see description below.
5. Class Caucus Leader (2 for each political party per class): political party spokesperson for class
6. Election Committee (1 per class): see description below
7. Chief Executive (1 for simulation): both the democratic and republican parties will have the opportunity to nominate a candidate for Chief Executive. The chief executive is not to be a member of the current legislative semester and must have a "B" average in their last social studies class. The chief executive has the power to sign bills passed by the legislature into law or veto the bills. More specific information about the chief executive can be found in the House Rules. The chief executive will be elected using an Electoral College system.
Appointed Positions (By Party Leadership)
1. Party Whip -Majority Party: assists the floor leader in organizing the debate for the full session
2. Party Whip - Minority Party: assists the floor leader in organizing the debate for the full session
3. Sergeant at Arms: assists the Speaker of the House in keeping order in the full session.
4. General Assembly Head Clerk: keeps record of time and debate in the full session
5. Committee Clerk (1 per committee): records the vote for their committee in the full session.
6. Session Parliamentarian: assists the Speaker of the House in interpreting and applying the House Rules in the full session.
7. Committee Parliamentarian (1 per committee): Assists the committee chairs in applying and interpreting the rules during the committee hearings
8. Committee Secretary (1 per committee): assists the committee chairs in keeping records during the full session.
9. Minority and Majority Committee Chairs (18): serve as chairmen for debate in the committee hearing process.
Simulation Support Staff
1. Elections Director and Staff This team, consisting of one elections director and six students, will organize the leadership elections. The group must be composed of both democrats and republicans. A detailed role description sheet is available for the election director.
2. Committee set-up group A group of nearly twenty student volunteers are needed the afternoon before the Committee Hearings to transform the LRC into committee meeting areas.
3. Legislative Aides: students can earn a quarter elective credit by volunteering either before school or during a free hour to help with the logistics of the legislative semester. See your teacher if you are interested. Aides will be trained in web site maintenance, clerical work other jobs as needed.
4. Video Team This team of students will be responsible for planning and organizing taped interviews with candidates running for leadership positions, candidates elected to leadership positions, and issue groups with interesting concerns. These tapes will be made available for students to preview.
The formation of the Rules Committee is the first simulation event and reflects the first opportunity for student leadership. The Rules Committee functions throughout the Simulation and grows in both size and importance as the semester progresses. This committee has two specific phases. First, the Committee plays an important role in the early organization of the Simulation as issue groups are formed and rules, procedures, and protocol are reviewed. Second, the Committee structures, organizes, and oversees the Committee Hearings and the Full Session.
The Rules Committee initially consists of one elected student from each class. The elected leadership, consisting of the Floor Leaders and Speaker of the House eventually become additional committee members. The Rules Committee members reflect the ratio of democrats to republicans established by the entire legislative body. The Speaker will appoint members if necessary in order to establish this ratio.
Some specific Responsibilities of the Committee include the following:
1) Administration and organization of the simulation.
2) Determination of committee membership.
3) Check quality of the bills.
4) Assignment of bills to committees.
5) Recommend changes to the House Rules.
6) Recommends bill order during Full Sessions.
7) Provides recommendations for approval or rejection of amendments.
Political Party Identification
A unit at the beginning of the semester introduces students to the philosophical and ideological issues of the political left and right. During this unit students are expected to examine their personal values as they relate to the political spectrum.
The culminating activity of this unit is the creation of a Legislative Profile by each student. The Legislative Profile will contain information describing the political orientation of the students. The profiles will be available for student viewing on Blackboard.com and should assist in leadership selection and lobbying efforts by issue group members.
The format for the legislative profile is as follows:
I. Brief Historical and Personal Data
III. Description of supported or opposed political issues.
Issue Group Responsibilities and Assignments
During the first quarter of the semester each class will be engaged in the process of creating issue groups. Issue groups consisting of four students per group are being formed in each class. Each group is responsible for developing one bill.
The bill writing process begins when all the issue groups have been established. When the issue groups finish researching and writing their bills they must spend time lobbying for the passage of their bill. Assigning each group member one of the roles listed below facilitates the tasks of researching, writing, and lobbying. A more detailed description of each role is provided under course documents on Blackboard.com.
1. Research Coordinator
2. Issue Group Coordinator
3. Media Manager
4. Bill Advocate
Students occupying the leadership positions are expected to control and direct the dialogue and debate that is a part of the legislative process. It is important that those who are considering holding one of these positions understand the role expectations.
Simulation participants seeking to be placed on the Leadership Ballot must first complete a Declaration of Intent for Candidacy by establishing a declaration page in the Blackboard.com. A written copy of the Declaration of Intent for Candidacy must also be submitted to the Elections Director on the required date. The Simulation Calendar provides the completion date for this form. After completing this form, applicants must obtain required signatures on their petition form. Those students who sign petition forms must also establish a signature page under the candidate they have endorsed. The petition must be obtained from the Elections Director and returned to the Elections Director on the appointed date.
Each simulation participant is limited to signing one petition per position. The number of signatures required for each position in a Simulation of 150 students are as follows:
1) Speaker of the House- 35
2) Majority Party Floor Leader- 25
3) Minority Party Floor Leader- 20
4) Chief Executive- 60
The Speaker of the House may obtain signatures from any simulation Representative (both democrats and republicans). Signatures for Majority Party Floor Leader and Chief Executive candidates must be obtained from only the Majority Party members. The Minority Party Floor Leader and Chief Executive candidates' signatures must be obtained from only the Minority Party members.
Representatives who have completed the declaration of intent for candidacy form, and who have returned the petition will be placed on the election ballot. Elections are conducted in the cafeteria during all lunches.
Bill Writing and Issue Group Paper
Each issue group member is expected to provide individual research that will be used to write and justify the bill. After completing research each issue group is required to complete a position paper consisting of four distinct sections. Each group member is expected to assume responsibility for one of the four sections.
The task of actually writing the bill is expected to be a shared process. A sample copy of the bill format is found under course documents on Blackboard.com. The completed bill must first be submitted to the Rules Committee for approval before being formally placed into one of the standing committees.
When party affiliation has been determined, simulation participants are placed into legislative committees consisting of approximately twenty-five students. The Rules Committee determines committee assignments. Each committee reflects the ratio of democrats to republicans and contains members from each of the classes involved in the Simulation. During the weeks prior to the Committee Hearings bill sponsors lobby committee members, share views concerning bills in their committee, and receive advice and directions from Committee Chairman. The Rules Committee assigns bills to the committees that have been created by the issue groups or by interested students in the school. All Simulation students are scheduled for a four-hour in-school assembly during which time the committees meet and process the bills.
The committee procedures duplicate the actual committee process as closely as possible and adhere to Roberts Rules of Order. Bill sponsors are allowed to speak on behalf of their bill and are encouraged to arrange for additional expert testimony. Opponents of the bill, other than those in the committee, also have the chance to organize testimony against the bill. Expert witnesses from outside the school are encouraged to participate. Following discussion of the bill, the committee conducts a vote to determine the pass or fail status of the bill.
All Simulation participants are again scheduled for a four-hour in-school assembly approximately two weeks after the Committee Hearings. This time block is for the purpose of simulating the legislature as it considers bills during the final phase of the legislative process. A second all day Full Session is scheduled for the purpose of hearing those bills not heard during the 1st session.
The Full Session tries to incorporate all the mechanisms that produce the dynamic atmosphere of legislative bodies. Students spend a week prior to the Full Session preparing speeches in an effort to support or defeat bills.
The Chief Executive, chosen using an electoral college system, can sign or veto legislation passed by the full session.
Laws that have been passed by the legislative body and signed by the Chief Executive are subject to judicial review. All simulation participants can challenge legislation by filling briefs to the court. The court will accept challenges that reflect a legitimate constitutional question and students can then either choose to defend or challenge the law. Majority and dissenting opinions will then be issued for students to respond to.