read a bill

Rachel Burgin has plenty of firsthand experience—she’s a former Florida state representative who has spent years working in local, state and national government.

Check the Facebook Live that Burgin did in front of the U.S. Capitol to hear her share some of her top tips, then read on to learn more about understanding legislation.

Finding the legislation: Most legislatures post bills on their website. Depending on your state, the legislature’s website can be a treasure trove of useful information, including a “plain language” summary and the path the bill has taken since it was filed.  

First things first: Bills start with a number, title and summary that provide crucial clues.

  • The bill number helps you track the bill as it moves in and out of committees.
  • The title helps you understand what specific policy area the bill deals with. Most bills are titled something like “A bill to amend and reenact section 33 of the Code of Virginia, relating to education savings accounts…”
  • The summary, usually called the “summary as introduced,” is a paragraph or two that breaks down—in plain language—what the bill is trying to accomplish.

Know where to look: Most bills amend existing laws instead of creating new ones. For those bills, there are a few key things to look for. For many states, any language being added to the law will be underlined, and anything being removed will have a line through it.

Have the latest version: A bill almost always changes as it winds its way through the legislature. You can make sure you’re looking at the most recent version by checking your legislature’s website.

Check the signers: Every piece of legislation has a sponsor—the lawmaker who introduced the legislation—and cosponsors—other lawmakers who support it. Knowing who’s backing the bill will help you develop your strategy for either killing the bill or ensuring it is signed into law.

Learn when it kicks in: At the end of the bill is the enacting clause. Look there to see when the proposed changes in the legislation will take place.

To learn more about how you can make an impact for freedom in your state’s legislature, you can check out one of our upcoming training sessions near you! For grassroots activism tips in your inbox, sign up to receive our emails.