How Congress Works

SV and JV Student Congress, much like mock trial or moot court, is an excellent hands-on learning experience where students debate as real life federal and state congress women and men.
The rounds are built to function as a real congress session might with some perimeters for convenience.

Students will debate a calendar of bills, written by themselves, other students, and alumni students. The entire round will be run and kept organized by the Presiding Officer.
Speeches are timed with a 3 minute sponsorship speech (1 minute of questioning) and 2 minutes for all other speeches.

Here is a step-by-step guide to how a round works:

- The presiding officer will call the session to order.
- The presiding officer will give or have someone give the invocation
- Role call will be taken
- All will stand to take the Oath of Office (referenced below)
- Debate starts with the first bill/resolution on the calendar (list of bills)
- The first speech on a bill, called the sponsorship speech, will automatically be given by the author of the bill if they are present. Otherwise, like with every other speech, any student interested in speaking will rise and the presiding officer will call on one of them based on who has spoken the least amount of times so far.
- Speeches will continue back and forth, speaking for or against the bill, until a student calls for a vote
- After a vote is taken, student move on to the next bill.
- The round is two hours in length for SV and an hour and a half for JV

Oath of Office

Follow this link to view the Oath of Office

Manuals and other helpful materials

Here is a link to our SV Student Congress Manual for you to use as you prepare for Student Congress!

We recommend that you download it and print it out (possibly double-sided) so you can study it to be better informed and ready for Student Congress!

Here is a link to our JV Student Congress Manual for you to use as you prepare for the Student Congress!

We recommend that you download the Manuals, print them out (possibly double-sided) so you can study them to be better informed and ready for Student Congress!

Here are the links to two charts on Pariamentary motions and procedures:

Table of Most Frequently Used Parliamentary Motions

Easy Chart of Parliamentary Procedures

Internet Usage In Round

We are going to allow internet usage in the round this year for the varsity students! Here are the rules that will need to be followed:

1. All devices with internet access are allowed to be used in the round including laptops, phones, and tablets.

2. Internet research must be research. You are not allowed to peruse social media or look up recipes during the round. If you are found to be looking at material that doesn't pertain to Congress, you will be asked to put away your device.

3. You may not bring your device up to the podium with you. This is for your benefit. You present yourself much better if you aren't looking down at a screen while you are talking. You may write notes about what you are reading and take those to the podium.

4. You must cite your source when you quote. You already do this for other events, so it shouldn't be a burden. For example, if you get statistics from the Washington Post, just say something like "on August 16 of 2016, the Washington Post said that 20% of elephant sightings took place in Tennessee."

5. You may share devices as long as the owner is amenable. Please don't grab someone's phone without permission or pass it farther than is comfortable for the owner.

6. All devices must be visible above the table's surface at all times. No one should be using something with the screen concealed from casual observation.

Helpful Terms

Representative - Refers to student competitors. They are Representatives because the final round of the tournament is held in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Tennessee Capitol. Representatives in each house compete against one another during the two preliminary rounds on Monday to be in the top bracket for their house in order to get a seat in the final round on Tuesday, March 29th.

Presiding Officer (PO) - Experienced student competitor who facilitates the round using parliamentary procedure according to Robert's Rules of Order. Presiding officers from each house compete against each other with a rotating panel of judges that observes each officer several times during the round.

House - The group of people with whom students are competing. Usually each House is given a name, i.e. the Polk House and the Jackson House.

Bill - Legislation that is being voted on to become law. Bills can be either federal or state level legislation. See the "bill format" tab for instructions on how to write one.

Resolution - An idea that a representative wants the house to adopt. It's not a law that makes something clearly legal or illegal. A Resolution might be used for something like declaring a new national or state holiday.

Calendar - The list of bills that will be debated each session.

Well - The podium at which representatives stand to give speeches.

Floor - when a member has the full attention of the assembly to speak (also refers to the area where the assembly meets, where its members speak, and where it conducts its business).

Amendment _- a specific change to an item of legislation, explaining exactly which words it modifies, and not changing the intent of the legislation itself.

_Precedence - standard rule in most debate leagues which requires the presiding officer to choose speakers who have spoken least (or not at all). The only exception to precedence is when a speaker has authorship privileges to legislation when it is introduced for debate. In those cases, the presiding officer must recognize the author first. If no author is present, selecting a sponsor is based on precedence.

Recency - is where the presiding officer not only employs precedence, but also selects speakers based on who has spoken least recently or earliest_.

Chamber Etiquette

1. Note passing and whispering is allowed within reason. Don't abuse the privilege by talking to your fellow Representatives about topics not related to Congress.

2. Respect the Presiding Officer. Their job is hard, and they need the support of everyone in the House.

3. If there is a problem with the way anything is being handled in the Chamber, please tell the adult who is supervising the Chamber.

4. Please respect the Judges by supporting a motion to adjourn in the middle of a session to give them a break.

5. Make sure the Judges are ready before you begin speaking. This is for your benefit and for theirs. They don't feel rushed, and you get the benefit of their full attention.

6. Monitor your own appearance and behavior at all times. You should always look professional and attentive.

7. Approach the well/podium and make a speech if you have something new to say. Avoid repeating the same information. If all issues a bill presents have been addressed, make the motion to move to the previous question.

8. MOST IMPORTANT: Remember that our greatest aim is to be ambassadors of Christ in all we do.

9. Finally...Have fun!

Ballots/Judging Criteria

The judges in the round will use the ballot below to evaluate students:

Student Congress Ballot