What is the purpose of the Pre-Leg sessions?
A number of the legislators in the Youth & Government program would probably either answer this question incorrectly or not have any answer at all. If you are like most, you probably think that it is just a smaller version of the Springfield weekend committee sessions. You may think that the ultimate goal is to argue that your bill should be passed, show people that your bill is better than others in your committee, and gain a high priority for your bill. If that’s what you think then you aren’t getting the most out of the Pre-Leg sessions.
The main purposes of Pre-Leg are really these:
- Use criticism and suggestions from other legislators to improve your bill
- Use criticism and suggestions from other legislators to improve how you debate your bill
Improving Your Bill
Most legislators walk into Pre-Leg committee sessions with what they think is a perfectly written bill. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “perfect” bill. There is always something that can be improved. If you feel dejected because your bill got put down by other members of the committee, don’t. You should welcome all criticism, no matter how harsh. The other committee members are telling you the weaknesses in your bill that need to be addressed. If you address these problems before you get to Springfield, you have strengthened your bill. If not, those same criticisms will come back to bite you again at a much more crucial time.
So, what should you do at Pre-Leg? Instead of aggressively defending your bill and getting upset if your bill gets criticized, use the criticism to your advantage. Take really good notes on everything that is said about your bill. What arguments were brought up? What were the weaknesses that were most often picked on? In the week following Pre-Leg, go back over the notes that were taken at Pre-Leg and determine what points are valid weaknesses of your bill and rewrite portions of your bill to address those points. Don’t spend your time trying to figure out how to argue against points that are better off being changed in your bill. After all, if you don’t change it now, someone else will in Springfield.
Improving Your Arguments
While you may already have a good idea on what points your bill may face opposition, you will probably always find more at Pre-Leg. While some of these opposing points can be better addressed by rewriting portions of your bill, many of them just show you what topics in your bill are going to require research to defend. If the same arguments come up at both Pre-Leg I & II, you can guarantee that they will come up again in Springfield. When they do, you should have hard facts and their sources to back up your points in your bill. Without these facts as backup information, you have nothing to use to defend your bill except your own opinions which carry no more weight than any one else’s.
What To Do
- Take detailed notes on everything that is said about your bill – both negative and positive
- Separate arguments that are valid from the ones that can be defended
- Rewrite portions of your bill to address arguments that cannot be helped with research
- Get facts from research to strengthen your arguments that can be defended