Legal Eagle : Election results determine what next becomes law

April 03, 2017
Gordon House

Regrettably, there is not much opportunity for the average Jamaican to influence our law-making process apart from casting a ballot at general elections.

Generally, the process is devoid of community and grass-roots consultation of constituents who are not generally regarded as stakeholders in the legislative consultation process.

 

ORIGINS OF BILLS

 

So what is the law-making process? Early indication as to what the legislative agenda is likely to be, each year, can be gleaned from the Throne Speech and the contribution to the Budget Debate by the prime minister.

The prime minister's contribution is likely to project some of the intentions outlined in the party's manifesto.

 

GREEN PAPER

 

The starting point for most legislation is in the government departments and agencies. Cabinet submissions would be presented by the respective minister based on policy statements from the departments and agencies.

This is called the concept paper, which outlines the problem and the proposed solutions. The matter would be first discussed at Cabinet committee for approval as a Green Paper, which is a consultation document to be discussed with stakeholders, within and outside of government.

 

WHITE PAPER

 

Once the consultation process is completed, there is likely to be amendment based on the further consultation and feedback. After the consultation and when the issues and recommendation are more refined and focused, Cabinet may instruct the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to provide guidance in the legislative drafting process.

If the document meets all the requirements and is approved by Cabinet, it will be tabled in Parliament as a White Paper. If a minister of government introduces the bill, it is referred to as a government bill and if introduced by other Members of Parliament it is called a private member's bill.

 

Parliamentary Process 'the readings'

 

Generally, bills are tabled first in the Lower House or House of Representatives. Some bills originate in the Senate, but never a money bill.

The first time the bill is tabled in Parliament, it is announced and distributed. This is called the first reading. The next stage is to have the bill debated and this stage is referred to as the second reading.

Instead of a debate at the second reading, some bills are sent to a standing committee of Parliament for review, after which a report would be made to Parliament.

At the third reading, the bill is reviewed, debated and passed, and thereafter, sent to the Upper House, or the Senate, where a similar process is undertaken.

 

ASSENT

 

If passed in the Senate, it would be sent to the governor general for his assent, which makes it law.

To encourage greater grass-roots and community participation in the law-making process, it might be useful for parliamentarians to give greater consideration to the views of their constituents, as this would deepen our democracy and encourage more participation in our political and legislative process.

Other Features Stories