Posts tagged ‘legislative drafting’

Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing – 1-day course in DC

Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing

How to Compose Clear and Effective Reports, Letters, Email, and Memos

This is the first course in our 2-course Word Workshop, offered throughout the year. The second course is Writing to Persuade.

Editing a paper, by Nic McPhee

Editing a paper, by Nic McPhee

Do you need to improve your writing skills? This intensive one-day course helps you, and your staff, understand the three dimensions of professional writing: organization, format and style.

Our writing courses are designed for anyone who wants to improve their writing, including agency staff who want to improve their writing and comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (H.R. 946) and Executive Orders 12866, 12988, and 13563.

Our writing courses have been described as “really about how to get better job reviews and get promoted” because they help you improve one of your most important, and visible, job skills: written communication.

July 11, 2012, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Where: Location in Washington, DC will be announced on web site before course.

For more information, see
Approved for CEUs from George Mason University
Approved for 0.6 CEUs from George Mason University.

Certificate Programs from TheCapitol.Net
This is a required course for the Certificate in Communication and Advocacy.

For more information about both courses, including agenda and secure online registration, see

These courses and any combination of their topics can be tailored for custom on-site presentation at your location and both are available via the GSA Schedule.

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What Role Does the President Play in Legislation?

Lansdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1796The executive power of the United States is vested by the Constitution in a president.

For instance, Article II, Section 3, states that the President

shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient

The latter portion of this clause is referred to as the Recommendations Clause and it has been used by Presidents for the basis of making legislative proposals to Congress as well as for declining to make legislative proposals, even when called upon by Congress to do so.

Another clause relevant to the role of the president in Article II, Section 3, provides that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This provision is known as the Take Care Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy SchneiderClause. Under some laws, agencies are required to submit proposals to the President before they submit them to Congress. Congress has frequently taken action to provide agencies and federal employees with independence from the President.

There are executive branch agencies, such as the FCC, and legislative branch agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office. Both types of agencies are typically vested with the authority to execute specific laws. At the same time, agencies must abide by decisions from the judicial branch.

It is not uncommon for agencies to play a critical role in the drafting of laws. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that a large portion of legislation that is considered within the legislative process is often either drafted or influenced by employees of the executive branch.

To learn more about drafting legislation, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 2-day Legislative Drafting Workshop.

Reference: Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook, by Tobias Dorsey, Sections 10.10 and 10.11: The Role of the President in Legislation and Agencies and Tensions within the Executive Branch; United States Constitution.

For more information about drafting legislation and statutory construction, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Using the Correct Style in Federal Legislative Drafting

When drafting federal legislation, it is important to ensure you are using the correct style. Style refers to the look and feel of a measure. While it might be assumed that style refers to the words that are used, style actually refers to the way in which words are placed on the page, a combination of elements used in a particular style.

minx just waking up
Creative Commons License photo credit: annieb

The purpose of a style in legislative drafting is to ensure the text is easy to read and use. Today Congress tends to produce bills that are quite complex and large. While different drafter’s have their own style, consistency ensures that readers are not distracted by the style.

The same style has been used for all freestanding measures since the 1980s–the modified revenue style. This style is based on the revenue style, sometimes known as the tax style, which was developed as a result of the increasing complexity of income tax laws. The goal of the revenue style was to break complicated tax codes down into pieces that were smaller and more orderly.

Legislative Drafters Deskbook by Tobias DorseySection headings were made mandatory with the revenue style. The section heading in revenue style is required to be printed in all capital letters. The section heading must be prefixed to the section designation and number and end with a period. For example; SEC. 2. The section designation is always spelled out in the first section of the bill.

Headings are also mandatory for every subdivision, with the exception of subdivisions in which there is a dash list or colon list.

The revenue style was considered to be too rigid by many drafters, which led to the development of the modified revenue style. In particular, many considered the mandatory inclusion of subdivision headings to be a hindrance. Basically, the modified revenue style is the revenue style with more flexibility. Headings are still mandatory for use in subsections, but they are optional for subdivisions in the modified revenue style.

Modified revenue style is the default style for use in modern drafting, particularly for bills and joint resolutions. The traditional style is sometimes used for drafting concurrent resolutions and simple resolutions.

To learn more about effective legislative drafting, consider TheCapitol.Net’s Legislative Drafting Workshop.

Reference: Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook, by Tobias Dorsey, Chapter 8 Using the Right Style

For more information about drafting legislation and statutory construction, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Thinking Through the Policy Before Drafting Legislation

Legislative drafts can fail for two reasons. Some fail because of poor communication while others fail due to a lack of imagination. Whenever there is a lack of communication, in most cases the draft is simply not clear. Common sense editing can usually resolve this problem. Whenever there is a lack of imagination, the draft is simply not adequate. These types of problems are usually not as visible to the naked eye and the appropriate resolution to this problem is thinking through the policy.

Creative Commons License photo credit: abbybatchelder

The writing portion of drafting legislation is certainly important, but the more time-consuming aspect of the task is thinking through the policy. When policy is not thought out properly, the result is additional work for judges and the distinct possibility that the policy will not work effectively. A policy that is not well thought out may not respond to the problem or it may result in unintended side effects. Controversy and confusion can occur as a result. Thinking through the policy before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard is critical .

There are seven elements associated with thinking through policy. They are:

  • Engaging the client
  • Figuring out the problem and the objective
  • Asking for details
  • Researching the facts and law
  • Analyzing alternatives
  • Creating a coherent solution
  • Conducting a reality check

Information can always be wrong, facts can shift and laws can overlap one another. When drafting legislation, the client has likely approached you with a prejudged sense regarding what must be accomplished. This should not be taken at face value. While you should respect it, it is imperative that you do not accept it. Clients often do not properly think through policy. They may even be operating on the recommendation of a third-party. At this point, what the client needs most from you is independent, critical thinking.

Take the time to be skeptical and question all assumptions. Imagine possible resulting scenarios. Utilize good judgment. While your client may not always have the time or the patience, you want to provide answers that your client needs to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.

To learn more about drafting effective legislation, consider our Legislative Drafting Workshop.

Reference: Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook, by Tobias Dorsey, Section 4.0 Thinking through the Policy.

For more information about drafting legislation and statutory construction, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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