The worksheets in this section look at commonly used vocabulary and the process of bills becoming laws and what the U.S. court system does with it from there. The worksheets look at all the aspects of the laws of the United States from their creation to their interpretation by juries and judges. We also look at how the executive branch is included in the process. We also have a few worksheets that help students learn about their own representatives in Congress and the House both at the State and Federal levels.
Every person in the United States is represented by someone in the federal government. States have varying numbers of representatives based on their population.
Fill in the information about each person's/groups' role in making laws in the United States.
What are the Differences Between a Rule and a Law?
As a young child, there were likely house rules set by your parents around how much television you could watch and what time your bedtime was meant to be. But were these the same as the laws that everyone in a jurisdiction needs to follow? Are rules and laws the same thing, and if not, what are the differences?
The main difference between a rule and a law is how they are implemented and enforced. Laws have a predetermined set of consequences for breaking them, while rules are more flexible, and consequences can be adjusted or removed altogether. Consequences for breaking laws are generally harsher.
Every law starts from an idea that is either presented or formulated by a U.S. Congress person. A Senator or a House of Congress member sponsor the bill and then it is sent out to a group of representatives to talk about the bill and make changes or scrap it all together before putting it up for debate by congress who then votes on it. Once passed, the President of the United States has several actions they can take to stall or pass the bill into becoming a law. Though we are referring to Federal laws, there are many crazy State laws that are still on the books and occasionally enforced. Do you know where chickens can't cross the road? Quitman, Georgia! It is illegal to allow your chickens to be unattended to in that town. Yes, it's still on the books today.
Understanding Rules and Laws
Rules are, essentially, regulations that determine how a person or group of people should act in a particular situation. Rules may relate to individuals (such as rules set by parents for children) or to a group of people (such as rules governing a sport and the people who play it).
Laws can be considered a step above rules. They are rules created by governments and implemented and enforced by society and the government. There are specific, predetermined consequences for breaking laws, which are far less flexible than those applied for breaking the rules.
Laws are generally created after going through due process. For example, in the United States, federal laws (laws that affect every citizen of the country) are made by members of Congress. They are then voted upon by all members of Congress, and should a majority vote for them, they are sent to the President for his signature. Presidents can veto proposed laws, and Congress can override this veto if 2/3 of Members of Congress vote to do so.
Differences Between Rules and Laws
There are numerous differences between rules and laws. Some of these include:
As mentioned above, the consequences of breaking a rule are generally milder compared to the consequences of breaking the law.
For example, if a sports player breaks a rule against gambling on his own team (in a country where gambling is legal), he may be barred from participating in the sport for life. However, if a person gambles in a country where gambling is illegal, consequences can include significant fines and prison time.
It is easier to adjust the consequences of breaking a rule than the consequences of breaking the law.
For example, suppose your bedtime as a child was 8 pm. However, if you stayed awake to watch a special movie screening, your parents might be willing to forgo any punishment as long as you promised not to do so again.
On the other hand, consider the law against stealing. Even if you only stole a small item from a shop, the police would arrest you and take you to court, where the judge would decide the consequences of your theft. Once the store owner calls the police, they are not at liberty to let you go without taking you to court unless the law allows them to do so.
With laws, there are usually detailed instructions on the consequences for breaking each law and in which situations a person can be pardoned. With rules, it is up to the judgment of the person who made the rules.
Additionally, rules are much easier to change than laws. In the United States, laws are struck down only if they are found, in court, to be a violation of the Constitution. Additionally, the government may strike laws down if they make a different law that supersedes the original law. However, both procedures are lengthy and time-consuming.
Rules can be changed or removed much easier. If the rules are created and implemented by one or two people (such as those set by your parents), they can simply decide to change the rules one day. If they are monitored and implemented by governing bodies (such as rules for sports leagues), there is usually some sort of discussion and vote that is required. However, even so, these changes generally happen much faster than legal changes do.
Though rules and laws may seem similar, they are actually quite different. In some ways, you can consider laws to be the “grown-up” versions of rules. They tend to have more stringent consequences when broken and are more difficult to change.