Image Image Image Image Image

User access:

Scroll to Top

To Top


On 17, Feb 2012 | No Comments | In | By Rachael Benjamin

The Making of a Law

Watch Free Online Visit Project Website


Michelle Horner is the principal of Wawona Elementary School in Mariposa, California. Actually, she’s “the teacher and the principal and the counselor.” Wawona is a one-room school, kindergarten through sixth grade. All of the children’s parents are federal employees who live in and protect Yosemite National Park.

Even a one-room school needs textbooks, equipment and furniture. When the school went into its tenth year of deficits, Horner turned to Congress for help. But Congress couldn’t just hand her the money. She needed a law.
This is where our odyssey begins. On average, each year less than 300 federal laws are passed to address the needs of hundreds of millions of Americans. And on average, laws are not passed by consent. Each requires research, debate, revision and then more debate – and that’s just in one body of Congress. If it survives there, it is truly privileged to repeat the process in the second chamber. In fact, there are many, many ways for a bill to die, but only precious few routes it can take to become a law.

While this rough and tumble process can be maddening for the losers (and even for the eventual winners), it is vital to our democracy. The process of creating a law is an opportunity for an open discussion of our priorities – a way for us to construct and reconstruct our communities, to fix problems and find solutions for people like Michelle Horner.

The Making of a Law follows the process of creating a law. Guiding us are people like Principal Horner and former School Board President Max Stauffer, who went to Congress to advocate for a new law, as well as Congressman George Radanovich, who was the bill’s first sponsoring member, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate and Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Administration. Together with experts and constitutional scholars, they walk us through their goals, strategies, compromises, and lines in the sand – as a bill becomes a law.