AG explains steps in legislative process
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has provided The Sunday Gleaner with the following overview of the legislative process.
The entire procedure for the preparation of legislation and the settling of the legislation programme involves seven main stages –
• Approval of annual legislation programme
• Approval of policy by Cabinet
• Issue of drafting instructions
• Preparation and circulation of bills
• Approval of bills by the Legislation Committee
• Approval of bills by the Cabinet
• Introduction of bills in Parliament
The first two are summarised below:
The annual legislation programme
By mid-January each year, ministries are required to prepare and forward to the secretary of the Legislation Committee a provisional legislation programme for the ensuing session which begins by March.
Programme should set out –
(a) the scope and purpose of each proposal;
(b) the ministry’s idea as to whether it will require a bill of long, medium or short length;
(c) the urgency of the matter in relation to the work of the ministry and indicating, by numerical sequence where possible, its priority rating compared with other matters of the ministry;
(d) whether the proposals for legislation have yet been approved in principle by the Cabinet;
(e) whether drafting instructions have been issued to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and, where a draft bill has been produced, an indication as to whether the draft is in the process of being settled as between the relevant ministry and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, or is in circulation for comment prior to submission to the Legislation Committee;
(f) any other remarks which may enable the Legislation Committee to determine its priority rating in regard to the programme as a whole.
Only such matters as are likely to be ready for introduction in Parliament within the legislative year concerned should be included in the programme.
Approval of programme
The Legislation Committee, a subcommittee of the Cabinet, will review the proposal. The programme approved by the Cabinet will be announced in Parliament early in the new session, and thereafter, copies of the full programme will be sent by the secretary of the Legislation Committee to all ministers, the attorney general, the financial secretary, the permanent secretaries of all ministries, the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC), the director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the director of legal reform, the secretary to the Cabinet, the clerk to the Houses, and heads of departments.
Soon after the programme is announced, ministries will proceed to prepare Cabinet submissions seeking approval for the drafting of the relevant bills. By constitutional convention, no proposals for substantive legislation (Acts of Parliament) are formally dealt with until approved by the Cabinet.
Each submission should be preceded by an examination of the major issues involved, including the legal issues. The attorney general should be consulted, and if other ministries are affected, their views should be obtained.
Additionally, submissions proposing substantive reforms to the law (i.e., significant changes in legal principle or procedure) should be sent to the Legal Reform Department for examination and comments. The CPC should normally be consulted before the submission is put forward in order to ensure that it adequately covers the main principles which will form the basis for more detailed drafting instructions.