2019 CHSSA State Tournament
Dates: 5/3/2019 - 5/5/2019


To stay up to date, follow CHSSA on Facebook | Twitter | Visit our Website 


Student Congress


*2019 legislation will be posted soon*

Each school with entries in congress is required to submit a piece of legislation to complete the registration process. Your students will not be entered until legislation is submitted.

Templates: please open the template in Google Docs, click 'File,' click 'Make A Copy,' and then create your new document.

Bill Template | Constitutional Amendment Template | Resolution Template




2019 CHSSA Congress Manual



Dear Congress Qualifier:

Congratulations on your qualification to represent your school and league at the CHSSA State Congress. The Congress Committee is determined to provide you with fair, efficient, and stimulating competition. We challenge all competitors to meet their responsibilities to the competition and bring distinction to themselves, their league, their school, and this activity. We are working to make this a memorable occasion. This requires that all involved in this competition meet the highest standards of deportment and performance. This benchmark will be required in the preliminary rounds, semi-final rounds, as well as the final round. You are the emissaries of this event.  Any inappropriate behavior should be reported to the Congress Committee for further review.

Sometimes, changes are made in the rules and procedures of the State Congress to improve administration and the quality of the competition. The rules for this state tournament have been attached to this manual. Please discuss these rules with your coach. It is your responsibility to know all of the rules and procedures of the State Congress.

All competitors are expected to demonstrate respect for the competition by wearing appropriate, professional dress. It is customary for gentlemen to wear ties at all sessions and for ladies to wear attire suitable in a business setting. Hats, caps, casual, or athletic wear, including sport shoes, are not considered professional dress.  

Presiding officers and all other competitors are required to attend a meeting with representatives of the Congress Committee. The location and time of this meeting will be posted in the registration area. Important information regarding the competition will be distributed at this meeting.

This booklet contains:

  • Specific instructions for the State Tournament.
  • Rules from the CHSSA Constitution for Student Congress.
  • Judging instructions and criteria.
  • The rules regarding priority cards and amendments.

We look forward to meeting you and having an extraordinary Congress this year.

The CHSSA Congress Committee

David Matley, Bob Stockton, Sharon James, Rachel Wear


Legislative debate (or Congress debate) at the state tournament is an extemporaneous event rather than a prepared event. Note that the ballot discourages “canned” speeches. You are strongly encouraged to assemble all materials that you can use to develop speeches in the session. The flow of debate should be spontaneous and responsive to the other speakers’ positions rather than a series of memorized, unrelated, and peripheral speeches.

All schools with congress qualifiers to the State Tournament will be required to submit legislation following the guidelines specified in the Congress Topic Areas for State Tournament 2018 form on the CHSSA website.  Legislation is due by the registration deadline for the State Tournament. Once determined, the final legislation will posted on Joy of Tournaments. The order of the bills and resolutions will be announced at the tournament site.


Presiding officers should carefully review the chair instructions included in this manual. Presiding officers are also strongly encouraged to consult the CHSSA Bylaws (relating to Student Congress) and the Student Congress Handbook on the CHSSA website and to be knowledgeable of the rules, procedures, and conventions of their role.  However, only CHSSA approved motions may be used during the tournament.

Presiding officers must report to the Congress Tab Room 30 minutes prior to the start of each round.  At this time they will be given their chamber assignment, the seating chart, a complimentary gavel to use in the round and the priority cards to distribute to their chamber for all preliminary round.  A new set of priority cards will be issued before the start of the semi-final and final round.

Keep to the time schedule. Time begins when the first speaker begins a speech. Put the starting time on the boards. The session must last according to the scheduled time.

Adhere to the following system of priority for recognizing speakers:

1st Priority - Representatives with fewest speeches (lowest priority card).

2nd Priority - Representative who has spoken least recently.

See below for an explanation of recency.

  1. On the presiding officer seating chart, you will mark questions and speeches. Use recency chart provided by the tournament to record recency.  Please make sure that you keep a clear record of recency to ensure a fair session. Return the recency chart, seating chart, and used priority cards to the Congress tabroom at the conclusion of the round.

  1. Accept only official priority cards. Use of any other form of priority card may result in disqualification for both the speaker and the presiding officer.

  1. Debate begins with a speech in the affirmative (for the legislation) followed by a speech in the negative (opposed to the legislation). The speeches in the session continue to alternate throughout the debate.

  1. Adhere to the time limits and order of the speeches. Speeches are an uninterrupted three (3) minutes immediately followed by one (1) minute of cross-examination of the speaker.

  1. Students may not suspend the rules to skip a side in a cycle. As the presiding officer you will need to encourage your chamber to be prepared to speak on either side of a bill or resolution.

  1. Know your role. The presiding officer’s role is to maximize the number of speeches and questions on the bill/resolution under consideration in this house. The job of the chair is to advance the debate. A superior chair does not permit non-germane amendments or unnecessary parliamentary maneuvers. A superior chair grants recognition to all speakers and questions equitably. You should show a cooperative yet competitive attitude. You will be elected to the semi-finals and the final round by the combined vote of the representatives and judges.

  1. Dress properly. Presiding officers demonstrate respect for this event and the representatives by wearing appropriate professional dress.

  1. Be familiar with the required vote on parliamentary motions. For example, the vote to move the previous question requires a 2/3 vote while the motion to table only requires a simple majority.

  1. Know how to handle amendments. Amendments, that do not alter the intent of the legislation under consideration, must be submitted in writing to the Congress Committee before the start of the round (see Amendments later in this manual).

  1. Shaking hands with the judges at the end of the session is not allowed.  Please instruct your chamber of this at the opening of the session.  At the conclusion of the session you may verbally thank the judges as a group before exiting the chamber.


  1. Speeches will alternate from affirmative to negative.

  1. The priority card system will be used.

  1. Speeches are limited to 3 minutes followed by 1 minute of cross-examination.

  1. Speakers are not to be interrupted during the three minutes of speaking time.

  1. Questioners are to be recognized at the discretion of the presiding officer.

  1. Questioners may only ask one question at a time. Thus, the Presiding Officer has an obligation to rule “two-part” questions out of order.

  1. Misleading, irrelevant or leading questions may not be ruled out of order by the Presiding Officer.  Presiding Officers may, however, remind the chamber to keep questions short and to the point.

  1. Any delegate 10 minutes or more late to session will be seated only with the permission of the Congress Chair after consideration of the cause of the tardiness.

  1. No bills or resolutions other than those assigned by the Congress Committee for that session are in order.

  1. Motions to suspend CHSSA or NFL rules or to impeach the presiding officer are not in order.

  1. Motions to adjourn before 80 minutes of elapsed speaking time are not permitted.  Sessions cannot end early if someone still wishes to speak.

  1. Motions to recess are not in order.

  1. All preliminary and semi-final rounds are not to exceed 90 minutes from the set start time determined by the presiding officer in the round.

  1. Motions to divide the house are not in order unless there is a contested vote.

  1. All amendments must be submitted to the Congress Committee in writing before the start of the round (see Amendments later in this manual).

  1. Props and visual aids for purposes of information and identification are strictly forbidden including but not limited to use of the white board, signs or placards not issued by the tournament to identify speakers, objects, charts, graphs, etc.

  1. Computers or tablets are allowed in congress sessions provided that the internet is disabled. See Section 18 for complete rules regarding the use of electronic devices in Congress.

  1. Shaking hands with the judges at the end of the session is not allowed. At the conclusion of the session you may verbally thank the judges as a group before exiting the chamber.


  1. There are three preliminary sessions of 90 minutes each. Each speaker will receive one set of priority cards for use in all preliminary sessions. These cards will not be replaced easily. There are 15 speakers in each preliminary session. One bill or resolution will be assigned to each session. At the beginning of the session, the presiding officer will read the assigned legislation and call for an affirmative speech to begin debate. Two presiding officers will be assigned to each house; they will reverse roles at the expiration of one half time of that session. At the conclusion of session three, the 28 speakers with the lowest cumulative scores will advance to the semi-final sessions.

  1. There will be one semi-final session of 90 minutes. 14 speakers will be seated in each house. New priority cards will be issued for this round. There will be one piece of legislation assigned for this session. The four presiding officers who advanced out of preliminary sessions will each preside for one half of their semi-final round.

  1. The 14 speakers with the lowest cumulative scores will advance to the final round. The winning presiding officer from each semi-final chamber will be elected to chair the final round by a combined vote of the chamber and the judges.

  1. The final round will be a unicameral session of the 3 hours divided at mid-point by a 10 minute recess. New priority cards will be issued for this round. There will be two pieces of legislation assigned for this final session. This session may involve special logistical considerations, or very important persons.  Upon posting of the final round, those who advance to the final session must be present at the posting site to receive further instructions from the Congress Committee.


Speakers will be recognized on a priority system. Each shall receive five numbered cards to be used in numerical order (1-5). Only official CHSSA priority cards are to be used. Any student who attempts to speak by use of a counterfeit, imitation, simulated, or otherwise unofficial priority card will be disqualified from the State Tournament.  The presiding officer may also be disqualified if he or she allows the student to speak with an unofficial priority card.  Students who lose or misplace their priority cards must immediately appeal, in person, to the Congress Committee.  Upon investigation, the Congress Committee may replace some or all of the missing priority cards at the Congress Committee’s discretion. A delegate who has exhausted his or her supply of numbered cards may be recognized to speak only if those holding cards choose not to be recognized. The procedure shall begin anew at the beginning of the semi-final round and, again the beginning of the final round.


No bills or resolutions are in order other than those provided by the Congress Committee.  Amendments that do not alter the intent of the legislation are in order if germane and if submitted in writing to the Congress Committee for approval in advance of the session. This committee approval may be sought at any time prior to the session in which the amendment will be used. Upon approval, the written amendment must be submitted to the presiding officer before the session begins.   Presiding officers should not read the amendment until there have been 2 affirmative and 2 negative speeches on the original legislation.  There must be a 1/3 second by the members of the chamber for the amendment to be considered.  A majority vote is required to pass an amendment.  Those speaking during the debate on the amendment must surrender a priority card. No amendments to the amendment are in order.


  1. Students shall be responsible for the validity of all evidence they introduce to the floor. This includes, but is not limited to: facts, statistics, or examples attributed to a specific, identifiable, authoritative source used to support a claim. Unattributed ideas are the opinion of the student competitor and are not considered evidence.

  1. At minimum, students are expected to orally deliver the following when introducing evidence: primary author(s)’ name (last) and year of publication. In the event that the source is a periodical or government publication, the title of the publication may be substituted for the author.


  1. The Presiding Officer determines the method of voting on each question that comes before the chamber, except for final votes on legislation, amendments, and motions to appeal to the chair, a recorded vote must be taken and announced. On all other votes, “voice voting” is acceptable.

  1. A recorded vote must follow if:

    1. any member asks for a division; or

    2. a member of the chamber moves for a roll call vote and the motion is agreed to by 1/5th of the chamber.

  1. All simple majority votes are based on the number of legislators present and voting in the chamber. Therefore, the Presiding Officer may not call for or count abstentions.

  1. For all votes requiring a fraction of the chamber to agree to a motion or question (2/3, 1/3, 1/5, etc.), the chair determines whether the chamber agrees with the motion/question using the number of legislators present in the chamber.

  1. Thus, the Presiding Officer must track the number of legislators in the chamber at all times.


  1. Computers may be used by competitors during congress rounds to access information on the computer.  See new by-law revision regarding computer use in congress at the end of this manual.

  1. During the course of debate on a piece of legislation under consideration, use of the Internet shall be strictly prohibited.

  1. Internet may be used during recesses called by the chamber or during the time period between sessions, but may not be accessed during motions of personal privilege.

  1. Both judges and peers present in the chamber shall monitor inappropriate use of the Internet.

  1. Concerns should be brought to your coach after the session.  

  1. Your coach will then bring these concerns to the attention of the tabulation staff.


  1. Presiding officers must use precedence when recognizing speakers.  This means that presiding officers must choose speakers who have spoken least (or not at all).  

  1. Presiding officers should employ recency once precedence has been set.  This means that the presiding officers should select the speaker whom has spoken least recently or earliest.

  1. Before precedence is set, the presiding officer must choose and explain to the chamber the manner in which speakers will be recognized.  Most number of questions and Standing Time cannot be used to select speakers.

  1. Recency continues from round to round provided that students stay together in a chamber. A new recency chart should be started for semis and for finals. 

So, put simply: 

  • First priority, least number of speeches given (on either side) aka lowest priority card number

  • Second priority, student who has spoken least recently.  This can be determined by choosing the student with the lowest number for their last speech given.

For example: 

  • The PO is trying to recognize a speaker to give the 10th speech of the round.  There are three students raising their hands.

    • Student 1: Spoke 1st  and is raising a priority card 2

    • Student 2: Spoke 8th  and is raising a priority card 2

    • Student 3: Has not spoken in the round and is raising a priority card 1

  • The PO should recognize speaker 3 because he has the lowest priority card. If that student was not raising their hand, the PO should have recognized Speaker 1 because the greatest amount of time (speeches) had elapsed between when they had last spoken and the current speech. 

Here is how a PO will use the recency chart: 

  1. All students names in the chamber will be listed on the recency chart.  

    1. This will be done ahead of time by the tournament director or by the presiding officer at the beginning of the session.

  2. Each speech in the round is given a number beginning with 1 and ending with the last speech given.  

  3. The recency chart and numbering should continue for all rounds that the chamber stays together.  

  4. Any time a break occurs--semis and finals, etc--a new recency chart should be used.


  1. First priority for giving a speech is ALWAYS least amount of speeches. (Lowest Priority Card)

  2. The Recency chart is used to break ties among students with the same amount of speeches. (Same Priority Card number)

  3. Standing time and questions shall NOT be used as a criterion for speech priority.

  4. Recency does not reset except for semi-finals and finals.

NEW FOR 2018

Section 18. The Use of Electronic Devices.

Electronic retrieval devices to store and to retrieve subject files are allowed to be used during congress sessions subject to the rules below and those in ARTICLE XI, Section 1. Paragraph K of the State Tournament Debate Rules. Electronic retrieval devices are defined as laptop computers, netbooks, iPads, or other portable electronic retrieval equipment. Secondary devices such as flash drives or external hard drives are allowed as well. Cell phones or smart phones are prohibited except as timing devices during the round by the presiding officer. Power plugs or outlets may not be used in the round at any time. All computers used in the session must be battery operated at all times. Contestants shall not access the Internet or use it to communicate. All wireless capability must be turned off. Penalty for violation of this rule shall be automatic forfeiture of the round by the offending speaker and/or disqualification from the tournament.


Copyright © 2002-2019 Brent Hinkle. All rights reserved.