Drafting Legislation

Following are some resources to consider when drafting legislation. Please also see the NSDA's Congressional Debate Guide (see Learning page on this site), as well as the Legislation Templates (also on this site).

Standards for Effective Legislation

The standards below include considerations from the NSDA's Equity Topic Rubric.


  • How two-sided it is; is there sufficient ground for debate on both sides of the issue but without requiring students to uphold a morally indefensible position inextricably tied to degrading peoples' identities, such as sexism/ sexist policies, ableism/ ableist policies, racism/ racist policies, etc. (adapted from California High School Speech Association materials).

  • Equity questions:

    • (Accessibility) In order to attract and sustain participation, does the topic facilitate an exploration of ideas related to established intellectual, social, or cultural interests? Considering the present moment, will theorizing and researching the topic encourage supportive social, emotional, and intellectual interactions amongst the intended participants?

  • Focus of debate: how will the debate focus on policies, values and/or facts?


  • Bill: specific details for realistic, timely, and feasible implementation and action; details who, what, when, where, and how a plan of policy would be implemented.

  • Resolution: Whereas clauses (if used) effectively argue rationale of why a problem needs fixing. Resolved clause(s) state a compelling position; or if beyond the jurisdiction of Congress, further action needed; or if a Constitutional amendment, enumerates specific details.

  • Equity questions:

    • (Literature base) In order to be competitive, does the topic compel students to research and present arguments that would stigmatize, discriminate against, or exclude a traditionally marginalized and disenfranchised community?

    • (Language) Does the wording of the topic discriminate or unequally value others? Is the topic clear, as well as free of any cultural idioms that may disadvantage some participants?

    • (Openness) Does the topic promote research and theorizing that challenges students to critically think about their world and consider different perspectives and experiences?

  • Specificity: consider such facets as who a policy impacts, and exactly how it impacts them.


  • Bill: national scope with domestic enforcement mechanisms (i.e., funding and/or oversight by specific agencies), and is Constitutional.

  • Resolution: Addresses issue outside of jurisdiction for further action, but indicating who has agency/jurisdiction and what general direction should be taken or a specific position to be taken.

  • Equity questions:

    • (Advocacy) Does the legislation enable students to actively theorize and address ethical, social, political, and economic barriers that perpetuate inequalities by advocating for changes to policies and practices?

    • (Intentional inclusion) The topic compels students to explore ethical, social, political, and economic issues in a way that features the experiences and perspectives of traditionally marginalized and disenfranchised communities.

    • (Power) The topic promotes a deeper understanding of power imbalances.


  • Exhibits seriousness of purpose, meets needs and desires of a significant population, and uses clear and specific language (adapted from Shannon LaBove of Rice University, Texas).

    • Use person first language that centers on people

    • Avoid informal idioms, formal jargon (unless a legal term of art already define in U.S. Code), and acronyms not already defined.

    • Avoid language that suggests victimhood (e.g., "afflicted by," "victim of," "suffers from").

    • See Inclusive Language Guide link above.

  • Equity questions:

    • (Awareness) Analyzing the topic from the perspective of many diverse student groups, does researching and theorizing about this topic promote awareness of specific experiences related to oppression and/or larger systemic issues?

    • (Justice) The topic provides opportunities to explore how we should define and live out social justice.