From draft to law: how long it takes for Parliament to adopt laws
In cooperation with the Parliament of Georgia Apparatus and within the framework of our parliamentary monitoring project, in 2012 TI Georgia started collecting procedural information about initiated draft laws and observing existing lawmaking practices in the Parliament of Georgia. This is the second post in a three-part series that discusses some of the data we collected. (First blog post: Who initiates the most laws in Parliament.)
Adhering to a procedural timeline in lawmaking is an important aspect of good governance in the Parliament. Public committee sittings theoretically allow the public and civil society representatives to participate so that enacted legislation will reflect the needs of relevant stakeholders; however, citizens’ involvement is dependent on the existence of parliamentary procedures that allow it.
In the Georgian Parliament, it is well known that in the past, important laws have been passed in a speedy manner, depriving stakeholders of the chance to be fully engaged. For example, an amendment to the law governing political parties, which introduced controversial changes to party financing rules, was adopted near the end of 2011, only 12 days after it was introduced, leaving some political actors and civil society groups frustrated about procedural hastiness.
Types of Laws
The Parliament of Georgia has adopted a total of 298 laws so far in 2012. We collected data on five types of laws passed this year:
- Law of Georgia: Changes to the existing laws or new laws passed by the Parliament, so-called “ordinary” laws.
- Organic Law of Georgia: Hierarchically higher than ordinary laws. Changing or adopting an organic law requires a greater quorum and threshold during the plenary hearing.
- Changes to the Constitution: Once an initiative for amending the Constitution is registered by Parliament, a constitutional draft law enters a one-month public consultation period after completion of which hearings in Parliament can resume.
- Parliament regulations: Changes to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia affect only the work of the Parliament. In June 2012, the Parliament adopted new Rules of Procedure that entered into force after the election of the current Parliament, with some of the norms scheduled to come into force after the 2013 Presidential elections results are announced officially.
- Changes to the 2012 State Budget: Revisions to the 2012 State Budget were made three times in 2012. Such changes require the draft to pass a hearing in the Budget-Finance Committee and be approved by MPs at a plenary sitting only once.
Figure 1 shows the breakdown of adopted laws according to type.
Figure 1: Laws adopted by Parliament in 2012 by type
Data we collected from the Parliament in 2012 allows us to examine how long draft laws were considered before they were passed in the first half of 2012. We calculated the discussion period for each law as the number of calendar days on which a draft was in Parliament, including the days on which it was registered at the Bureau and when it was passed. For example, if a law was registered at the Parliament Bureau on a Monday, and passed the third and final hearing on the following Monday, then its discussion period would be 8 days. Figures 2 and 3 show the ranges of discussion periods for all laws adopted in 2012.
Figure 2: 2012 laws and days of discussion in Parliament
Draft laws that were considered for more than 60 days are shown in Figure 3 to maintain clarity. Out of 298 laws adopted in 2012, 254 were also initiated in 2012, while the rest were registered during previous sessions; these are also included in the second chart.
Figure 3: 2012 laws by discussion days (above 60 days)
We also calculated average, minimum and maximum discussion periods for each type of law initiated and adopted in 2012; see Figures 4 and 5. If we include the discussion periods for laws initiated during previous sessions into these figures, we get an average of 74.6 days for regular laws and 30.5 days for organic laws. This significant shift in the averages is seen because several laws had extremely long discussion periods, as compared to the average. These long discussion periods change the maximum discussion period significantly, with 1,573 days being the maximum for laws and 155 days the maximum for organic laws.
Figure 4: Average length of discussion of laws initiated and adopted in 2012
Figure 5: Minimum and maximum days of discussion of laws initiated and adopted in 2012
As shown in the figures above, the path from draft to law is different for each type of legislative initiative. Discussion periods varied a lot within the regular laws category, with laws being adopted after discussion periods ranging from two to 1,573 days. About half of the draft laws were discussed and passed after 17 to 32 days. For more information on the 2012 laws, check our database (in Georgian only).
The Rules of Procedure of Parliament do not directly specify the acceptable minimum and maximum time-frames for the discussion of laws. Moreover, Parliament may also pass laws in an expedited manner within one week, upon with the Bureau’s permission. However, it was not always clear when the expedited mode was applied for draft laws tracked by us. For example, 15 laws were adopted within 8 calendar days, among which there were three amendments to the 2012 budget, must-carry/offer regulations adopted in late June, and two draft laws that were initiated and passed during the extraordinary session in July when the new government cabinet was approved. However, none of these laws were clearly labeled as having been approved by the Bureau for expedited discussion. On the other hand, there were laws which were clearly approved for expedited discussion -- but whose discussion periods were longer than one week.
We also observed that some laws were held for a long time in the 2008-2012 Parliament before finally being passed in 2012. Some examples of laws which were adopted after lengthy delays are:
- Changes to the Law of Georgia on Drugs, Psychotropic Materials, Precursors and Drug Aid liberalizing drug policies and fines: 1,573 days;
- Changes to the Law of Georgia on Civil Service and Changes to the Law of Georgia on Incompatibility in Public Service specifying income declaration reporting requirements for public officials: 243 days;
- Law of Georgia on Free Trade and Competition which was an important law preparing Georgia for future EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement negotiations: 240 days.
The new 2012-2016 Parliament has a different composition which presents an opportunity for changes to existing practice. The presence of a strong minority in Parliament will make it especially important that procedural requirements are followed carefully and that they are designed to encourage discussion and deliberation in the lawmaking process. Considering this, TI Georgia recommends that:
- The Rules of Procedure be reviewed and a better procedural framework elaborated with clear guidelines for planning draft law discussions, containing reasonable minimum and maximum spans for each stage of discussion;
- Draft laws be discussed in an expedited manner only when absolutely necessary and that the initiators of draft laws be required to justify the request for expedited procedures in the explanatory note attached to the draft; also, plenary and committee sitting schedules should clearly identify which drafts on the agenda are being discussed under expedited procedures;
- Parliamentary committees commit to carefully following all procedural requirements and schedule hearings so that openness of lawmaking is guaranteed.