There are 5 main parts to writing a bill:

1. Choosing Your Topic

Topics (Governing Document)

The Governing Document is a resource available to delegates to guide them with their bill writing. The sections include Crime & Justice, Civil Rights, Health, Education, Energy & Environment, Transportation & Infrastructure, Public Safety, and Finance, the same topics that delegates will be split by for bucketing. Each section provides a list of potential topics for the committee, along with detailed topic descriptions for two specific New Jersey issues. 

The Governing Document is an excellent resource for both new and returning delegates alike to find inspiration for their bill topic. It can be found here.

2. Developing Your Idea

After you decide on a topic, there are a few key questions to ask:

    • How big is the problem?  Is anyone currently addressing the issue and how?
    • Does your proposal require:
      • A new law?
      • An amendment to a current law?
      • The repeal of an existing law?
      • An amendment to the State Constitution?
      • What are the repercussions if it does?
    • Find out what the present law is on the subject on both the STATE and FEDERAL level.
    • What is the “solution” to the problem you have identified?

    3. Writing Your Bill

    Make sure you cover the basics:

    • Who will this law affect and how?
    • Which specific agency will administer or monitor this law?
    • What will have to be created for the law to take effect?
    • What are the consequences if someone does not obey this law?
    • How much, if anything, will this cost?  Where will the funds come from?
    • Is your bill Constitutional?

    Things to Keep in Mind

    • Definitions –define technical words at the start of the Body of the Bill.
    • Tense & Mood – use the present tense and indicative mood.
    • Grammar & Sentence Structure – use simple, short sentences.  Clarity is essential.  Proofread!
    • Choice of Words & Phrases – select short, familiar words that best express your ideas.  Exercise brevity!
    • In legislation, the word “shall” is a legal construction, which translates to must.
    • Numbers, Sums, Dates, etc.
      • Numbers less than 10 are expressed in words.  Numbers beginning a sentence are also expressed in words.  Fractions with whole numbers less than 10 are expressed in words.
      • Monetary Sums – one cent, 10 cents, $3, $3.65, $125, $2,000, $4 million, or $5,504,282.
      • Dates – June 1993, June 19, 1984, June and July 1995, January 14, June 29 to July 5, 1987, 10-month period, five-day grace period.
    • Limitations – you must state the scope and limits of the Bill.  Be clear and concise on what the bill is to do and what its purpose is.
    • Punishments for Criminal Acts – minimum and maximum sentences are required.  Use the phrase “the offender will be subject to imprisonment by the Department of Corrections for a time …”

    4. Bill Formatting

    Check our Bill Formatting page HERE

      5. Ensure Bill Fits Requirements

      All Bills submitted to the Program must be done by the following:

      • Bills must be submitted online
      • Bills must be typed in the aforementioned format in the online bill submission application.
      • All legislators MUST sponsor at least one bill.  Assembly members must co-sponsor one (1) additional bill, and Senators must co-sponsor one (1) or two (2) additional bills.
      • All sponsors MUST be from opposite branches of the same house (i.e. both the Senator and Assembly member must be in the Wilson Legislature to sponsor each other’s bills)
      • Bills not received by the deadline will NOT be included in the bill book.  Sponsors of late bills will be required to bring 200 3-hole punched copies to conference.
      • The program staff reserves the right to exclude inappropriate bills.
      • No two (2) delegates from the same delegation may have the same bill topic.

      Need to look at an example?  Check out our sample bill!