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American University Washington College of Law    
  Feb 19, 2018
2017-2018 Catalog

LAW - 821A Legislation

(2 hrs.)

This class will present an advocate’s-eye view of how legislation is made, interpreted, implemented, and in some cases how various governmental actors work around it. I will draw upon my experience as the Legal Director at HRC and as an executive or consultant for other advocacy groups. I’ll also bring in guest speakers with Hill, advocacy, and executive-branch experience. This course will offer a practical, real-world view of how it’s done and will help you develop the skills to go out and do it yourself. Although we will examine the theories and principles various political movements say underlie their legislative preferences (e.g. states’ rights, originalism, the “constitutional conservative thought,” progressivism) this is not a theory class. We will become fluent in these ideas and learn how political actors use them as tools to achieve their goals. In particular, we will examine: 1. The legislative drafting process; 2. The role of the “fourth branch,” otherwise known as interest groups and lobbyists; 3. How a bill really becomes a law, including an introduction to parliamentary procedure, using appropriations to make law, filibusters, and the impact of our two-party system on moving legislation (spoiler alert– it makes it impossible); 4. How public perceptions of our national problems, what our Constitution means, and the people who are in charge affect how laws are drafted and whether they become law; 5. What political actors do to influence those perceptions and to message their own work; 6. How the executive branch implements (or doesn’t) existing law and uses its power to make law where none exists.