I’m Just a Bill Sitting on Capitol Hill

I’m Just a Bill Sitting on Capitol Hill

Do you remember the 1970’s School House Rock’s video I’m Just a Bill Sitting on Capitol Hill? The video was part of School House Rock’s series of three-to-five-minute videos to educate kids between Saturday morning cartoons. The first season started with the theme “Multiplication Rock” and included several videos on math. The most popular, I’m Just a Bill Sitting on Capitol Hill, came out in 1976. How many of us can still sing the lyrics? I believe I first learned how a bill became a law because of School House Rock!


The wonderful thing about I’m Just a Bill Sitting on Capitol Hill is that it is indeed accurate, even in the midst of fun and animation. The cartoon makes it easy for people of all ages to understand the legislative process. House Mouse Senate Mouse by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes is another fantastic avenue for teaching children, or anyone, the legislative process. The book follows a class of mice students in “Moussouri” who want to establish a national cheese.  It is charming and clever.  A bonus is the beautiful and ornate Ways and Means Committee Room showcased in the story. Ways and Means was where I worked when the book was published!

House Mouse Senate Mouse book

While these creative and easy-to-understand methods of teaching the legislative process are silly at times, they are correct. The real-life legislative process includes more serious behind-the-scenes politics, negotiations, compromise, and anxiety than these two accounts depict, but the process of a bill becoming law in these stories is authentic.

Once you are ready to graduate from School House Rock and House Mouse Senate Mouse, it is important to understand terms such as engrossed (when a bill has passed one chamber and moves on to the other), enrolled (when an identical bill has passed both chambers), and conference committee (a committee to resolve differences the Senate’s version and House’s version of a bill), among other terminology. A helpful source to delve deeper is a legislative glossary.

If you are following specific bills or subjects during the Texas Legislative Session, a useful online tool is  Texas Legislature Online or TLO. Visit this site to set up bill lists and alerts, read bill texts, watch committee hearings, and track a bill’s progress. Technology has made participating in the legislative process very user-friendly for everyone, even if you are not present at the Capitol.

On the national level, Congress.gov is your go-to site for searching bills, texts, committee hearings, and legislative schedules.

U.S. House Ways and Means Commitee room
U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Room

While all states, except Nebraska, have a bicameral legislature, the various state legislative processes have their own culture, policies, and rules. It is important to understand each state’s intricacies.  I recommend working with a lobbyist or policy analyst in each state where you have business.

The legislative process is essential for our country to conduct business by allowing The People to participate through our elected officials and providing channels for the public to become involved.