Day One: KWL About Wisconsin Government
EQ: What is a government? What is the purpose of a government?

Define: Government and Patriotism

How do you demonstrate patriotism? Attend parades, wear red, white and blue, take off your hat and stand up when the American flag passes or when saying the Pledge Allegiance/National Anthem, learn more about the government, celebrate holidays - Independence Day, Flag Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day.

Teach about American symbols: flags, eagle, red, white, blue, etc.

Day 2 - Democracy and Voting
EQ: What is a democracy?
EQ: Has the government of the US always been a democracy? Support your Yes or No answer.
EQ: Actor Richard Dreyfus says that the word America is a verb, not a noun. What do you think he means by that?

Brain Pop Democracy

Brain Pop Voting

Who was eligible to vote in 1776?
Student Activity: Students are placed in groups of 4. Each group views the Democracy and Voting Brain Pop and then creates a one minute presentation highlighting the "most important" information in each video.

Voting Activity - Students privately fill in a ballot for an election for the meal choice on the SW overnight trip. Democracy in action!

Voting in the state of Wisconsin (from text)

School House Rock No More Kings

Why do Americans Vote on Tuesdays?

Teaching Children to Vote (PBS) PBS Democracy/voting

Voting on the weekend instead of Tuesday?

Voting Video from the Smithsonian

Ben's Guide to Government website Ben's Guide to Government

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  1. How Do Other Countries Vote?
    Grade Level: 3-5

    Subject: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; Science & Technology
    In this activity, children will begin to understand that voting processes, elections and government parties vary throughout the world.
    Did you ever wonder if everyone in the world votes on the same day? If women in China and Saudi Arabia can vote? What the voting age is in Brazil? How votes are counted in Australia? When was the first election in the United States held? Once you start thinking about one question, surely many more will follow. So many countries, so many elections, so many questions.
    A fun way to learn about elections around the world is to devise a list of questions to inquire about. Have each child write a minimum of five questions they would like to know the answer to. The questions should center on the election process in other parts of the world. Afterwards make all the questions available to the children. Using this list as a guide, have them pick one or two countries to research and have them find the answers to their questions.
    Interviewing people they know from their chosen countries could be one way to find some answers, they could also write to embassies for information, they could even correspond with children at schools in other countries, and of course, they could also research their questions using books and the Internet. Once all the questions are answered make a classroom book or even a video. Videotape the children reading their answers and questions and then watch the video with other grades or parents on Election Day in November!

    Online Resources

Frontline World:
Introduction to Politics and Government by Janet Cook and Stephen Kirby

  1. What Does Democracy Mean to You?
    Grade Level: 3-5

    Subject: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies
    As the U.S. Presidential election draws closer, children should understand the meaning of democracy. Of course like many philosophies and practices, the meaning of democracy has grown and changed since it first originated in Ancient Greek times. The word democracy comes from the Greek word demokratia, which simply still means, "people-rule." Demosmeans the people, and Kratos means power or authority.
    To help "kick off" lessons on democracy and other concepts associated with this vast and very important concept, the children will work in small groups to brainstorm ideas and words related to "democracy." The idea of this exercise is to bring out many topics that might spark more curiosity and interest in the coming elections. By conversing with peers and listening to others, this exercise will help guide and teach those children who are unsure as to what it democracy means.
    In groups of four or five, allow the children to record all the words/ideas they think of when they hear the word "democracy." Have the children record their answers on big post it notes or index cards. Remind them to write down all their responses and not to debate choices. Once they are finished, collect the pieces of paper and as a whole group discuss each contribution and organize the ideas into categories. Leave this collected record on display throughout the entire unit of study.
    This visual record and brainstorming activity will help drive future lessons and discussions while keeping an ongoing reminder to the November elections in sight.
    Some categories my end up being titled, "elections/leadership," "politics," "branches of government," "ideologies," "civil liberties," "diplomacy," etc. Have the children add to this classroom record as they read books, visit Web sites and make more inquiries as Election Day nears!

    Online Resources

PBS Kids: The Democracy Project:
The Kid's Guide to Service Projects by Barbara Lewis

  1. We Are Women
    Grade Levels: 3-5

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; Science & Technology; The Arts
    In this activity children will learn about women leaders and appreciate the changes they have made and/or are still making. After reading and discovering facts and stories about women leaders, children will share information with their peers using a game like format. It is important to introduce the meaning of equality in leadership and present lessons in which stereotypes are noticed and discrimination is discussed.
    Begin this lesson by purposely "discriminating" against the male students in the class. For example, pretend to hold a vote to see which story you should read first, however, do not allow the male students to vote. This "voting" activity will make a great opportunity to introduce woman leaders Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Stanton, three influential women leaders who fought for equal rights in the mid-1800s. Hold a few more impromptu "votes" in which you discriminate against certain groups in the class (the girls, children born in certain months...); discuss how stereotyping and discrimination makes a person feel.
    Next, have students find out women in other countries who are fighting for democracy and human rights today. Just have them gather names (See Online Resources below) Gather the new list and re-organize the information according to where in the world the woman leaders are from, where/when they lived or the area they lead/led in (politics, education, sports, medicine, etc.).
    Once you devise a final list, have the children research a leader(s) and find a few facts out about each one. After the research is conducted (via interviews, books, reading, videos, the Internet), have the students use their language art skills to turn the facts into answers (similar to the format of the game show "Jeopardy").
    After the children have worked in groups, rotated, and shared information, hold a "We Are Women" game show. Invite staff, high school members, and people who contributed names to the list to come and observe or even participate! Have fun, and remember it's a celebration of equality in leadership and positive woman leaders!

    Online Resources

PBS Kids: WayBack (Suffrage):
Women World Leaders: Fifteen Great Politicians Tell Their Stories by Laura Liswood

  1. World Leaders: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    Grade Level: 3-5

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; The Arts
    In this activity children will understand the concept that there are many different types of leaders in the world. This activity is a great way to culminate a unit on Elections and Leaders. In this activity, children will devise research guidelines via listening, discussion, and voting and use multiple creative outlets to research and present information on various world leaders.
    Tell the students that after they read some sample biographies of leaders, they will decide what kind information is important when learning about these men and women. Then, devise a research format to follow when collecting information about leaders for projects. Ask the children what should be included in the guidelines. For example, what kind of facts and information are really important to include? What information really helps us understand this leader? What do we really want to find out? Once the guidelines are agreed upon (perhaps by voting) formulate one final set of guidelines that the children must follow when researching their chosen leader.
    The guidelines might include:
    • What did this leader do that made a difference?
    • Did someone or something influence this leader to take this path?
    • What kind of obstacles was this person faced with?
(Personal details are not important. Emphasize the importance of quality information and good questions to ask and answer.)
  • Students could make a poster, write a poem, put on a play, write a book, write a song, or give a presentation. Letting the children decide how to present the information encourages use of individual learning styles and hopefully will make the children excited about participating in the project.
  • The only rule or expectation will be that the guidelines they voted on have to be followed or answered. Make sure the presentations are balanced geographically and that both men and woman leaders are researched. Also encourage children to choose leaders that aren't commonly discussed in school. Such examples include czars, dictators, presidents (Yasser Arafat, Vladamir Putin, Corazon Aquino), prime ministers, (Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher), emperors (Akhito of Japan,) queens, kings, etc.
  • Online Resources

American Experience (Archives):
100 World Leaders Who Shaped World History by Kathy Paparchontis

  1. The Electoral College
    Grade Level: 4-8; 9-12

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; Math
    While many people who live in the United States believe that we live in a democracy, we actually live in a "republic," in which voters elect representatives to vote their will in the legislative and executive branches.
    When the Constitutional Convention debated on how the president should be selected, they devised a system called the "electoral college," in which a formula was developed that provided a safeguard against voters electing an "unsuitable" president, and also providing that even the smallest state would have some leverage in selecting the chief executive.
    However, the election of 2000 proved that the system might allow one candidate to win the election while not winning the popular vote. While Republican George W. Bush won the electoral vote after the Supreme Court ruled he won the state of Florida; Democrat Al Gore collected more than half a million more popular votes nationwide than Bush.
    Have students work in groups and analyze the following Electoral College resources to investigate the reasoning for it and why it is still part of the American election system (see Online Resources below).
    After researching the Electoral College and the role it plays in the process of selecting the president, students can write newspaper editorials or letters to the editor either in favor of the system or proposing a replacement system for it. As an extension activity, students can also review other US presidential elections, comparing the percentage of popular vote a candidate received with the percentage of electoral vote the candidate got. Which percentage is higher? Ask students to speculate as to why that would be so.

    Online Resources

NewsHour Extra:
Choosing a President: The Electoral College and Beyond by Paul D. Schumaker and Burdett A. Loomis

  1. Iraq in Transition
    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; Math
    The United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, and put the US leaders in a position of "nation building," that is, assisting the Iraqi people to rebuild not only their cities, but their government as well.
    While the United States set a June 2004 "handover" date to give control of the new government to the Iraqi people, it was obvious that creating a new government system, even one that expressed the best interest of the people, would be difficult to achieve.
    Have students work independently or in groups and investigate the former Iraqi government as well as the proposals for provisional and revised Iraqi governments. Who will provide security? What will the role of the United Nations be? What are the plans for elections? Some believe elections should be held as soon as possible; others argue that elections should wait until 2005.
    After students have researched the procedure and problems encountered in Iraq's transition, ask them to assume that they are working with the US Government in the handover of control to the Iraqis. Ask them to either draw posters or create short radio or television "spots" to gain support among the people for the new Iraqi government.

    Online Resources

NewsHour Extra: The U.N. in Post-War Iraq:

  1. 15th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square
    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12

    Subjects: Social Studies
    June 2004 marked the 15th anniversary of the pro-Democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Tiananmen Square is symbolic because it is the location of the Great Hall of the People, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and was the site where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
    Chinese students initiated protests against the Communist government in the People's Republic of China, and erected a statue similar to the U.S.'s Statue of Liberty, named the "Goddess of Democracy."
    Within days, however, the government sent troops to break up the demonstrations. Thousands died in the government crackdown. The crackdown was widely condemned worldwide.
    Using the online resources below, ask students to research the events leading to the crackdown by the Chinese government, as well as the impact of the crackdown.
    After reviewing the events of June 1989, and the aftermath, ask students to assume they are State Department officials who are charged with drawing up some sort of official U.S. government response to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and the Chinese government's crackdown. Students should write a "position paper" or "government response" to the events in Beijing.

    Online Resources

Frontline: "The Gate of Heavenly Peace":
China and Democracy: The Prospect for a Democratic China by Sui-Sheng Chao, Suisheng Zhao

  • The China Democracy Movement and Tiananmen Incident: Annotated Catalog of the UCLA Archives, 1989-1993 by Jian Ding, Elaine Yee-Man Chan, Leslie Evans
  • More Recommended Resources

  1. The Cradle of Democracy
    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts
    Greece has long been considered the "Cradle of Democracy," although the system of government created there is not the same as the republican form of government established in the United States.
    Grecian democracy was limited. For example, only males born in Greece could become citizens. Women could not obtain the rights of citizenship, and males born outside of Greece, while they could establish businesses and enjoy some of the rights of citizenship, were not able to become citizens. As with most other countries, however, the Hellenic government changed and adapted over time.
    Have students work independently or in groups to research historical and political information about the development of the government of Greece.

    Online Resources

The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization:

  1. Ten Years After Apartheid: A New Era in South Africa
    Grade Level: 6-12

    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; The Arts
    One of the most dramatic democratic movements in the world occurred in Suoth Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time, the racial separation policy of apartheid was dismanted. A new government--chosen by a "one-man, one-vote" election -- replaced the old order and black citizens of South Africa won more equality and freedom.
    Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, and held a prisoner for years by the white dominated South African government, was named the first black president of the nation. He served from 1994 until 1999.
    Students can work independently or in groups investigating the fall of apartheid and the rise of the Black Nationalist government using the Online Resources below.
    After reviewing the information regarding apartheid, have younger students draw pictures demonstrating the effects of apartheid, or illustrating the work of democratic reformers, such as Mandela. Older students could use the information and pictures contained in the resources to develop posters or multimedia presentations highlighting apartheid or showing the end of apartheid and the rise of democracy in the nation.

    Online Resources

Frontline: "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela":
Mandela : An Illustrated Autobiography by Nelson Mandela

  • The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid Stateby Richard Wilson
  • More Recommended Resources
Published: July 2004

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Day 3 - The Three Branches of Government

What is congress?

The Role of the House

The House of Representatives plays an important role in the United States Government. Its job was given by theFounding Fathers of the United States during the Philadelphia Convention in May of 1787 when our current Government was created.

The Three Branches of Government

The signing of the Constitution
During the Philadelphia Convention, it was decided that the United States Government should have three branches. The three branches would keep each other balanced so that one branch did not become too powerful. All Americans have equal and fair representation through the three branches:

  1. Legislative: The Congress
    The legislative branch makes the laws of the United States, controls all of the money, and has the power to declare war.
  2. Executive: The President and Vice President
    The executive branch enforces the laws of the United States, spends money as allowed by Congress, declares states of emergency, appoints Judges to the Supreme Court, and grants pardons for crimes. Electing the President and the Executive Branch of the Government Click Here
  3. Judicial: The Supreme Court
    The judicial branch oversees laws, judges when a law is unconstitutional, and makes arrangements for prisoners.
To be sure that one branch does not become more powerful than the others, the Government has a system calledchecks and balances. Through this system, each branch is given power to check on the other two branches. The President has the power to veto a bill sent from Congress, which would stop it from becoming a law. Congress has the power to impeach Supreme Court Judges or Presidents. The Supreme Court has the power to overturn a law that they believe is unconstitutional.

The Legislative Branch

The U.S. Capitol
Congress meets at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Members of Congress have offices in buildings that are attached to the Capitol and visit the Capitol for meetings and legislative sessions. See if you can help A.Bill get from his office to the Capitol to vote on a law by trying to Capitol Maze!
During the Philadelphia Convention, participants from large states wanted the number of representatives in Congress based on the number of citizens in the state—so the more citizens the more representatives. Participants from small states were worried they would have no power and wanted an equal number of representatives from each state. To be sure everyone had equal representation and power it was decided that the Congress would have two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two houses work together to pass laws.

The Senate

The Senate has 100 members—2 Senators from each state, regardless of its size. Senators serve 6 year terms and there is no limit to the number of terms they can serve.

The House of Representatives

The House Chamber
The House of Representatives has 435 voting Members, five Delegates, and oneResident Commissioner. Members and Delegates each serve a two year term while Resident Commissioners serve for four years. The number of Representatives from each state is based on the state’s population. Each state has at least one Representative.
By separating the two branches of Congress, Americans are guaranteed equal representation. The houses work together to pass laws that are then enforced by the Executive Branch and overseen by the Judicial Branch.
The House of Representatives is full of traditions and artifacts. You can see what the oldest artifact—the coin silver inkstand—looks like by printing out the Relic Connect the Dots!

More Cool Stuff


Place your mouse over a word highlighted in blue to see its definition, or look at the full list.

Did You Know?

Congress meets in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

For Teachers

Looking to bring the U.S. House of Representatives into your Grade School classroom? Visit our For Teachers section for resources, activities, and lesson plans that complement the material on this site.

List of Wisconsin Congress members .
List of Wisconsin State Legislators Click Here.
List of Wisconsin Governors Click Here.

Executive Branch (Discovery Education) Click Here.

How is power divided Ted Talk. Click Here

EQ: What are the three branches of the Wisconsin government? How are they interdependent?

Wisconsin Government resource page

Brain Pop Branches of Government

Three Branches of Government in Wisconsin (from text) -

Graphic organizer for taking notes -

Senate Districts in Wisconsin (from text)

Why do you have to be 35 to be the president?

Day 4: How A Bill Becomes a Law


How A Bill Becomes a Law

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Creating laws is the U.S. House of Representatives’ most important job. All laws in the United States begin as bills. Before a bill can become a law, it must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the President. Let’s follow a bill’s journey to become law.

The Bill Begins

Laws begin as ideas. These ideas may come from a Representative—or from a citizen like you. Citizens who have ideas for laws can contact their Representatives to discuss their ideas. If the Representatives agree, they research the ideas and write them into bills.

The Bill Is Proposed

When a Representative has written a bill, the bill needs a sponsor. The Representative talks with other Representatives about the bill in hopes of getting their support for it. Once a bill has a sponsor and the support of some of the Representatives, it is ready to be introduced.

The Bill Is Introduced

The Hopper
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill is introduced when it is placed in the hopper—a special box on the side of the clerk’s desk. Only Representatives can introduce bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.
When a bill is introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill clerk assigns it a number that begins with H.R. A reading clerk then reads the bill to all the Representatives, and the Speaker of the House sends the bill to one of the House standing committees.

The Bill Goes to Committee

When the bill reaches committee, the committee members—groups of Representatives who are experts on topics such as agriculture, education, or international relations—review, research, and revise the bill before voting on whether or not to send the bill back to the House floor.
If the committee members would like more information before deciding if the bill should be sent to the House floor, the bill is sent to a subcommittee. While in subcommittee, the bill is closely examined and expert opinions are gathered before it is sent back to the committee for approval.

The Bill Is Reported

When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent—or reported—to the House floor. Once reported, a bill is ready to be debated by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Bill Is Debated

When a bill is debated, Representatives discuss the bill and explain why they agree or disagree with it. Then, a reading clerk reads the bill section by section and the Representatives recommend changes. When all changes have been made, the bill is ready to be voted on.

The Bill Is Voted On

Electronic Voting Machine
There are three methods for voting on a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives:
  1. Viva Voce (voice vote): The Speaker of the House asks the Representatives who support the bill to say “aye” and those that oppose it say “no.”
  2. Division: The Speaker of the House asks those Representatives who support the bill to stand up and be counted, and then those who oppose the bill to stand up and be counted.
  3. Recorded: Representatives record their vote using the electronic voting system. Representatives can vote yes, no, or present (if they don’t want to vote on the bill).
If a majority of the Representatives say or select yes, the bill passes in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is then certified by the Clerk of the House and delivered to the U.S. Senate.

The Bill Is Referred to the Senate

When a bill reaches the U.S. Senate, it goes through many of the same steps it went through in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is discussed in a Senate committee and then reported to the Senate floor to be voted on.
Senators vote by voice. Those who support the bill say “yea,” and those who oppose it say “nay.” If a majority of the Senators say “yea,” the bill passes in the U.S. Senate and is ready to go to the President.

The Bill Is Sent to the President

When a bill reaches the President, he has three choices. He can:
  1. Sign and pass the bill—the bill becomes a law.
  2. Refuse to sign, or veto, the bill—the bill is sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives, along with the President’s reasons for the veto. If the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate still believe the bill should become a law, they can hold another vote on the bill. If two-thirds of the Representatives and Senators support the bill, the President’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.
  3. Do nothing (pocket veto)—if Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law after 10 days. If Congress is not in session, the bill does not become a law.

The Bill Is a Law

If a bill has passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and has been approved by the President, or if a presidential veto has been overridden, the bill becomes a law and is enforced by the government.

Review the Three Branches of Government
Do last page in the WI Government Packet

Show the School House Rock video from You tube

School House Rocks Three Branches of Government

Brain Pop How A Bill Becomes A Law

School House Rock How A Bill Becomes a Law

Create visualization of how a bill becomes a law
Brainstorm ideas for new bills

Passing legislation (National Government)

From dKosopedia

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In order to create a new law, the Congress must go through a precise procedure specified in part by Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution. Most new legislation (called "bills") may be originally introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, or identical bills may be introduced simultaneously in both chambers. (The exception is bills which include tax provisions, which must originate in the House, but can be amended as normal in the Senate.) Once a bill is introduced in a chamber, it is assigned a number (e.g., H.R. 137, S. 26) and sent to one or more committees which have jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the proposed legislation. In committee, the bill may be further distributed to sub-committees.
In the committee or subcommittee, the bill is deliberated by the committee members and may be amended by majority vote. Most bills die in committee, but some are eventually "reported out" to the full chamber—or in the case of a subcommittee, to the full committee, which can perform anouther round of edits. The committee-edited version of the proposed legislation is referred to as the "Chairman's mark." In addition, the committee will prepare a Committee Report, which analyzes the legislation and discusses why committee members feel any given provision in the marked-up bill is appropriate (or why they don't). These reports do not have the force of law, but because they show what those legislators most deeply concerned with this bill were thinking about it, the reports are frequently used by courts when attempting to interpret statutes.
Once the bill is reported reported favorably to the full chamber, it must be scheduled for deliberation by the full body. The House or Senate leadership makes scheduling decisions. Sometimes the leadership will refuse to schedule a vote on legislation which might benefit the other party, but this can be a politically risky move if it derails popular bills. Once scheduled, the bill is deliberated on the Floor of the chamber. Any member can propose amendments to be accepted by majority vote. The chamber must then pass the bill by a simple majority. Once one chamber passes a bill, it must go to and be passed by the other chamber. As noted above, bills are often introduced in both chambers simultaneously.
Whether the House and Senate consider a bill simultaneously or sequentially, because of the committee process and amendments from the Floor, the chambers usually pass significantly different versions of most bills. The two versions must be reconciled before the bill becomes a law. To do this, the bills are sent to a special ad hoc committee, called a conference committee, made up of both senators and representatives who have interest in the subject of the legislation. The conference committee harmonizes the two bills, and can add new provisions just like any other committee. If the bill survives this process, it is eventually reported back to the two chambers for final passage. The harmonized bill is then voted on by both the Senate and the House without further amendment. If the bill receives a simple majority in each chamber, it is considered to have been passed by Congress. However, it is not yet a law.
After Congress has passed a bill, it must be presented to the president before it becomes a law. Four things can happen. If the president signs the bill, it becomes law upon his signature. If he does not sign it, it will become law 10 days after it was presented to him (excluding Sundays). However, if Congress adjourns before the 10-day limit is up, the bill will not become law—this is called a "pocket veto." Finally, the president can veto the bill. If he does so, the president must return the bill to Congress within the 10-day limit and attach a statement explaining why he found the bill unacceptable.
After a bill is vetoed, Congress has three options. They can do nothing and let the bill die, they can amend the bill to address the president's concerns, or they can override his veto. If the Congress decides to amend the bill, the amendments must be passed in both chambers or the amended versions must go to conference, just like a brand-new bill. To override a veto, both chambers must repass the vetoed bill by a 2/3 majority. If they do so, the bill will become law regardless of the president's opposition.
When a bill becomes law (either with the president's signature, without it, or over his veto), it is assigned a number. For instance, the 36th public law passed by the 108th Congress (2003-2004), the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, is denominated P.L. 108-36. Once a law is passed, it remains law until amended or repealed by Congress, which must be passed by both chambers and signed by the president just like any other legislation.

The City of Milwaukee Government in Action!
Ethics Board Calendar
City of Milwaukee New Legislation
New Legislation - City of Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Government Structure

The City of Milwaukee's municipal government is comprised of a Mayor and Common Council. The Mayor exercises executive powers through preparation of the annual city budget and appointment of department heads, who serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. The Common Council reviews the Mayor's budget recommendations and may make changes to them. The Council also reviews the Mayor's appointment of department heads and may confirm or reject appointments.

The Mayor

As chief executive of the City, the Mayor is responsible for assuring that state laws and City ordinances are observed and enforced. He also insures that all officers of the City discharge their respective duties. The Mayor provides the executive direction for the City's operating departments, by appointing department heads or board members. He also has the power to veto Common Council actions.

The Common Council

Fifteen elected members comprise the Common Council in Milwaukee. Each Council member is elected to a 4-year term, and represents a district of about 39,800 residents, larger in size than all Milwaukee County suburbs except West Allis and Wauwatosa.
A Council member serves both as legislator and district administrator. As legislator, the alderman or alderwoman helps to shape city policy. As administrator, he or she is responsible to citizens in the district for the services they receive. Together, the Council members control the finances of one of the largest corporations in the state. They determine the course of city services, statutes, development and thus, its future.

Standing Committees

The committee system forms the cornerstone of the governmental process in Milwaukee. With few exceptions, once a proposal is introduced, it is referred to one of the standing committees for study. Each committee meets in Room 301 of City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., at least once between Council sessions. The full Council convenes after all the committees have met once, in the Council Chamber on the third floor of City Hall.
A standing committee holds public hearings, takes expert testimony and researches topics pertinent to the proposal. Members may refer an idea to City departments, boards or commissions. After their evaluation, committee members draw up a recommendation to present to the full Council as part of their committee report. Citizen interest and input is always welcome at meetings of standing committees as well as the Common Council.
The Council ordinarily accepts the committee's recommendations. Specific ones, however, may receive separate discussion on the Council floor in a closed debate among Council members. A recommendation may be amended during this debate process, and acted upon by an individual roll call vote. After Council approval, a proposal becomes law or policy when it receives the signature of the Mayor and other officials. The seven standing committees of the Common Council are:

  • Licenses: Its responsibilities include evaluating license and permit applications for bartenders and alcohol beverage establishments, tobacco sales, extended-hour establishments, home improvement businesses, loading zones and rooming houses. It also handles the registration of bicycles and domestic partnerships.
  • Finance and Personnel: It considers appropriations, finances, labor relations, personnel, pensions and other benefits, insurance, audits, the annual budget and contracts.
  • **Ju****diciary and Legislation:** It acts on legal claims against the City, and on matters involving other governmental units at the local, state or federal level. It also handles matters of elections and referendums, ethics, annexation, detachments and boundaries, deferred assessments, lobbying, and refunds or cancellation of taxes or billings.
  • Public Safety: It's concerned with issues brought forth from the departments of fire, police, health, neighborhood services, traffic and engineering, emergency medical services and parking. It also handles the licensing of public passenger vehicles.
  • Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development: It meets to discuss issues relating to city development, zoning, historic preservation, tax incremental financing districts, code compliance and housing projects.
  • Public Works: It's responsible for matters dealing with physical services provided by the city, such as sanitation, general maintenance for streets and alleys, sewer, water and flood control projects, assessments, playgrounds, totlots, parks and green spots, public building and land operation, construction, leasing and maintenance, harbors, rivers and creeks. It also handles the topics of transportation and utilities.
  • Community and Economic Development: It hears matters relating to community development, business improvement districts, implementation and assessment of federal block grants, job development, city public relations, industrial land banks and revenue bonds, emerging business enterprises, recreation and cultural arts.
  • An eighth committee, **Steering and Rules**, consisting of the Common Council president and the chairs of the seven standing committees, formulates policies and rules for the Common Council, oversees charter school and hears extraordinary matters not covered by any standing committee and matters within the responsibility of more than one committee.

City Clerk

The Common Council chooses the City Clerk after the general aldermanic election. The City Clerk in turn appoints the Deputy City Clerk. Together, they direct the office which serves as the support staff for the Council.

Council Proceedings

Opening ceremonies include a roll call, the pledge of allegiance, an opening prayer or a moment of silent meditation, and corrections to the official record. Members next consider any unfinished business. The meeting proceeds with reports and recommendations from standing committees. A vote is taken after each full committee report. But individual roll call votes are taken on items considered under separate action. Usually, a simple majority vote suffices to adopt proposals. However, specific provisions of state statutes, the City Charter, the Code of Ordinances or Council rules may require a larger majority in certain instances. Such Council action can be vetoed by the Mayor, who in turn can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of the Council. New business may be submitted to the City Clerk at any time during each 3-week Council cycle for introduction at a meeting. Claims, petitions and letters to Council members represent some ways in which new business is brought before the Council. These items are referred to the appropriate standing committee for study, hearing and report. Introduction is considered the first "reading." Each proposal ordinarily receives a second "reading," at another Council meeting, before members can act on it.

Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary procedure permits special actions. Three in particular are:
  • Separate action: A Council member can call for this action when he or she would like further discussion on a committee recommendation. This action requires a separate vote on a recommendation.
  • Committee of the whole: The Council goes into this session to hear from speakers other than members. They might include the Mayor, department representatives or citizens.
  • Resolutions for immediate adoption: A two-thirds vote of Council members waives the hearing of some items before a standing committee. Certain business, however, such as ordinances and funding appropriations, cannot be adopted in this way. They must receive a hearing, and carry a committee recommendation to appear before the Council for action.
Council members govern the City through three kinds of statutes:
  • Ordinances: Laws of the City.
  • Resolutions: Policy statements of City operations.
  • Charter ordinances: Amendments to the City constitution.
Council members can take these actions on a proposed ordinance:

  • Passage: A proposal is written into law.
  • Placed on file: It is set aside until further requests for discussion or action.
  • Postponed indefinitely: Action on a proposal is terminated.

The Council President

Each term, Council members select an alderman or alderwoman to serve as president for the entire four-year period. He or she presides at Council meetings, and directs items to the standing committees. The president appoints the chair and vice-chair of each committee. He or she also makes appointments to the many citizen boards and commissions. The Council president stands first in the line of succession to the Mayor. He or she assumes this duty when the Mayor is unable to conduct the affairs of that office.

Day 5: Review branches of government and teach lesson on TAXES

Brain Pop Taxes

Wisconsin Government for kids website

Kid's government link

Ben's guide to government

Wisconsin activity booklet

Representative Pasch's website

WI Capitol Building

Belmont First State Capital

Madison State Capitol

Capitol Facts

Sandy Pasch visit - April 29, 2011

Representative Pasch Visit 2011