WHAT IS CONGRESS?
Student Congress is a speech and debate event modeled after the U.S. Congress. Each session is run by students in a manner similar to a congressional debate session, with students participating as if they were members of the U.S. House or Senate, including being referred to as "Representative" or "Senator." Students write legislation with the intention of having it passed by the chamber; however, students are primarily evaluated on the quality of their speeches, not whether legislation passes or fails.
There are nine topics on current events or social issues for each tournament, normally announced about a month in advance. There are three topics each for domestic, international, and economic matters. Each student will propose legislation (a Bill) on a topic of their choice with a supporting "authorship" speech of three minutes explaining why the Bill should be passed by the chambers. Students also prepare to give additional three minute speeches on other topics from the tournament list.
At a tournament, there are usually four Congressional sessions of about an hour and a half each. You are in a chamber with about 20-25 students from schools throughout the DMV. Using basic parliamentary procedure, students to decide the order of the bills to be discussed - this is called meeting in committee and determining the docket (the order in which bills will be discussed). Then bills are introduced and debated one at a time, starting with the authorship speech, three minutes of questions, then alternating speeches against and for the legislation of three minutes each (referred to as "negation" and "affirmation" speeches). There may be questions after each speech, depending on whether there is time remaining after the allotted three minutes or if someone makes a motion for question time and the motion passes.
To keep all this in order, one student serves as the Presiding Officer, or "PO." The PO keeps time for speeches and calls on Representatives to speak, staring randomly then making sure those who haven't spoken yet have the next opportunity (called "recency"). Speeches are given in this manner until debate is exhausted or someone makes a motion to vote, table, etc.
There are usually two judges in each round judging the speeches, and a Parliamentarian making sure students follow correct procedures. The Parliamentarian also evaluates students on their use of parliamentary procedure and how well they use question and answer time. Students receive a score of up to 30 points from each judge for each speech for a total of 60 possible points. They also receive a parliamentarian score of up to 30 points. The score from a student's two highest scoring speeches are added to the parliamentarian score to calculate the students overall score, which is out of a possible 150 points.
The WACFL CONGRESS MANUAL link below is a deep dive into all aspects of Student Congress and answers 99% of the questions you have. There are templates for bills, sample language, detailed explanations, and advice on how to write a great speech and get a high score.