POLS 497 - Floor Class, Fall 2004

State & Local Government in Practice

Debra J. Kennedy

Office hours: Mon. 4:00 – 5:30

Office: TA office, DU 476

Email: debrak72@comcast.net



Class time: Tues. 7:00-8:15

Room: Douglas Hall, Big Blue



The purpose of this course is to offer students practical knowledge and skills which will allow them the opportunity to pursue careers in state or local government.  Students in this course will learn about the process of lawmaking at the local level and gain practical skills such as how to: draft legislation and amendments, write and present summaries (“fact sheets”) of proposed legislation to legislative committees, and participate in mock State Senate committee meetings as a State Senator, research analyst or lobbyist.


Course Outline:

During the first half of the semester, students will read about and learn how to draft proposed legislation, amendments and “fact sheets” suitable for presentation in State Senate Committee meetings.  The second half of the semester will be devoted to mock Senate Education Committee meetings, in which students will be assigned roles as State Senators, research analysts or lobbyists.  As Senators, they will learn how to sponsor, co-sponsor and draft proposed legislation; as research analysts they will learn how to research, summarize and present proposed legislation in a committee meeting; finally, as lobbyists they will learn how to draft amendments to proposed legislation and present and argue for those amendments in Senate committee meetings. 

The final assignment for this course requires students to draft an original piece of proposed legislation, an amendment to that legislation, and a summary of it that will be presented in a “public” Senate committee meeting (to which all POLS floor students will be invited to attend).


Tentative Course Schedule:

Tue. Sept. 14: Session 1 -- Course Introduction 

The State Legislative Process – How a Bill Becomes a Law (handout).


Tue. Sept. 28: Session 2 – Lobbying/ Drafting Legislation


Nownes, Anthony and Patricia Freeman (1998) Interest Group Activity in the States. Journal of Politics. Vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 86-112.

Burns, Brenda (1999) How to Read a Bill. Senate Intern Manual.  Pp. 26-27.  Phoenix, AZ: State of Arizona.

Assignment #1: Write 5 questions/talking points on the Nownes reading & be prepared to discuss them in class.



Tue. Oct. 12: Session 3 – Research Analysis/ Writing a Fact Sheet 


Burns, Brenda (1999) Responsibilities Relating Primarily to Committee Staff.  Senate Intern Manual.  Pp. 38-40.  Phoenix, AZ: State of Arizona.

Gnant, Randall (1998) From Idea to Bill to Law: The Legislative Process in the Arizona State Senate. Pp. 19-48.  Phoenix, AZ: State of Arizona.

SB 1197, Amendment to SB 1197, Fact Sheet for SB 1197

Assignment #2:  Draft a bill, amendment & Fact Sheet according to specifications (handout).


Tue. Oct. 26: Session 4 – 1st Senate Education Committee meeting


SB 1028, Fact Sheet for SB 1028

SB 1154, Proposed Amendment to SB 1154, Appropriations Amendment to SB 1154, Rules Amendment to SB 1154, Fact Sheet for SB 1154, Revised Fact Sheet for SB 1154

Assignment #3:  Draft bill, amendment or fact sheet according to assignment (handout), and present in Senate Education Committee meeting. 


Tue. Nov. 9: Session 5 – 2nd Senate Education Committee meeting


Jewell, Malcolm E. (1982) The Neglected World of State Politics.  Journal of Politics. Vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 638-657. 

Assignment #4: Draft bill, amendment or fact sheet according to assignment (handout), and present in Senate Education Committee meeting. 


Tue. Nov. 30: Session 6 – Open Senate Education Committee Meeting (all POLS floor students are invited to attend)

Final Assignment: Each student will 1) draft an original piece of legislation, 2) draft an amendment to that legislation, 3) write Fact Sheets for each, AND 4) present them in a mock Senate Education Committee meeting.



Attendance/Participation:                      30%                                         A:         90% - 100%

Assignments:                                        30%                                         B:         80% - 89%

Final Assignment:                                  40%                                         C:         70% - 79%

                                                                                                            D:         60% - 69%

                                                                                                            F:           0% - 59%


Classroom Policies:

1.      It is the nature of political discussions to sometimes become “heated.”  I expect you to feel free to express your opinions, no matter how controversial they may be.  I also expect you to listen respectfully to your colleagues and if you disagree (which you undoubtedly will!), to do so in a respectful and academic (not personal) manner.

2.      While I encourage your participation in class discussion, I do not wish to include your friends.  Therefore, unless you are an organ donor or recipient, all cell phones and pagers MUST be turned off prior to class time.

3.      All assignments are due on the day listed on the syllabus.  Late work will receive a grade of 0%, so if you miss a class, make sure you email your assignment for that day (as a Word attachment) to me BEFORE class begins.


Attendance/participation (30%)

1 missed class    = 83% (B)

2 missed classes = 67% (D)

3 missed classes = 50% (F)


Assignments (30%)

1 missed assignment   = 80% (B)

2 missed assignments = 60% (D)

3 missed assignments = 40% (F)

Undergraduate Writing Awards: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 29, 2004.  All copies should have two cover pages - one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.
Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. CAAR is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303).  It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester. 


Plagiarism: According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalog, “Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.”  In short, all ideas that are not your own or well known must be cited.  A general rule is that if the information cannot be found in three or more commonly available sources it should be cited.  All direct quotes must be placed in quotation marks. If you are unsure as to what should be cited, please ask me for assistance.