During the period from October to November 2017, the USAID RADA Program held five discussions on parliamentary reform involving MPs of Ukraine, the staff of the Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, representatives of Government, experts and the public, aiming to develop recommendations for their further implementation within parliamentary reform. Specifically, the discussion covered such issues as performing parliamentary oversight functions, interaction of the legislative and executive branches of power in the legislative process, strengthening of the role of committees and the VRU Secretariat, creation of a separate parliamentary service, tackling of the problem of the voting procedure, and the role of support documents in the legislative process.
Based on the results of discussions on parliamentary reform, the USAID RADA Program organized the conference “Role of Parliament, Heads of State, Government and the Public in Improving the Quality of the Legislative Process”.
Within the framework of the conference, the Agency for Legislative Initiatives presented the paper “Concept of End-to-End Legislative Process”.
Oleksandr Zaslavskyi, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives:
Of all the flaws of the legislative process, the most conspicuous are the ones associated with the consideration of draft laws in the session hall. I am not talking about “piano voting”. For instance, the widespread practice of considering bills under an abridged procedure (which according to the rules of procedure should be an exception rather than the “standard”) in the first reading degrades the level of discussion of legislative initiatives. Moreover, sometimes at the proposal of the initiator of the bill or the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada there is no discussion whatsoever, that is, even the abridged procedure is not observed.
Thus, the first reading as a key stage in the consideration of bills is reduced. However, according to the logic of the Rules of Procedure the VRU, it is the first reading stage that should guarantee a comprehensive discussion of the problem, its relevance, proposed solutions, and expected results. The flaws of draft laws start becoming manifest during the further work on preparing it for the second reading which, due to its limitations, does not allow for opportunities to improve the key idea of the bill, making possible only pinpoint and technical changes.
Moreover, during the 4th and 5th sessions (February 2016 – January 2017), most of the bills were adopted in the first reading, and in total 116 out of 187 were approved as a whole (62%). At the same time, 51 out of the 116 above bills (44%) were adopted contrary to the opinions or comments of the Central Scientific Experts Office of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which prepares expert opinions for the first reading. Obviously, this attests to the poor quality of the bills, at least in terms of the regulation design mechanism, internal consistency of the text of acts, or compliance with the current laws, the Constitution or international agreements. What’s more, these bills are adopted almost without discussion and without prospects of improvement during the second reading.
This is coupled with the situation around transitional provisions of bills adopted as a whole. Such provisions often contain instructions for the Government to align relevant subordinate acts in pursuance of the adopted laws. Such transitional provisions with instructions (specific or general) are contained in 91 laws approved as a whole during the 4th and 5th sessions (47%). Obviously, the Government should be ready to comply with the laws. However, it is difficult to imagine how one can prepare for such a situation when it is impossible to predict stage and form of adoption of a draft law.
As a result, the Government faces the problem of enforcement of “imperfect” or poorly-prepared laws, which spawns the need to initiate more changes to the already adopted legislation. As a result, these parliamentary practices are one of the reasons why 60% to 75% of the bills adopted as a whole during the 8th session are secondary, that is, they amend existing laws. For the presently registered bills, this figure is even greater. To sum up, it can be argued that the lack of thorough work on draft laws and attempts to quickly adopt them without comprehensive discussion produce the need to register even more bills. This, in turn, is one of the sources of the very “legislative tsunami” referred to in the Roadmap of the European Parliament’s Needs Assessment Mission.
Mr. Zaslavskyi also focused on the recommendations that need to be implemented to improve the law-making process.
- drafting and adopting the Law “On Regulatory Acts” introducing appropriate amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine in order to ensure the effective distribution of the sphere of regulation of laws and by-laws, as well as to establish common rules for drafting bills, their coordination among the involved parties, the procedure of interaction of the entities of legislative activity, enactment of laws, enforcement, monitoring and evaluation of the enforcement of laws, etc. Moreover, this will help to introduce the procedure of voting for ordinary laws by a majority of those present in the session hall;
- setting forth in the Rules of Procedure of a certain number of 20 MPs’ signatures necessary to register bills or introducing letters of support for registered bills for them to be considered in the session hall (Draft Law No. 6640);
- introducing the mechanism of MP’s individual legislative proposal;
- limiting the right of MPs’ legislative initiative in financial and economic matters;
- review of the status of the Government’s Program of Activity. In the event of the Government’s failure to provide this document, it should resign (introduction of a constructive confidence vote). The session agenda should be drawn up on the basis and in pursuance of the Government’s Program of Activity;
- limiting the number of bills to be submitted for discussion within a week. For example, up to 10 bills. In this context, priority should be given to the government initiatives aimed at implementing the Government’s Program of Activity;
- introduction of a mechanism for political co-ordination (first of all with regard to compliance with the Coalition Agreement and the Government’ Program of Activity) of legislative initiatives (submitted as a brief analytical note containing primary information on the current policies in a particular area or symptoms of a problem). Only after examining this initiative for compliance with the government’s program of activity (and, possibly, the coalition agreement) and its approval by representatives of political factions and groups, can preparation of analytics be launched and the text of the bill be drafted;
- ensuring that the Government should prepare regulations for the enactment of the law before the law is adopted as a whole or that Government should give a reasoned explanation why no such regulations need to be drafted;
- ensuring that bills should be discussed under the full procedure in the first reading and that bills should be considered under the full-fledged procedure of three readings (as stipulated by the Rules of Procedure of the VRU);
- introduction of monitoring and evaluation of the enactment of a particular law or the state of legal regulation of a particular field of social relations based on any legislative initiative. Any legislative initiative should come with a monitoring and evaluation plan that should be agreed with the Main Committee of the Verkhovna Rada;
- introduction of a single platform for all legislative initiative entities to register, log and track all regulations. The Computerized Systems Department is developing a resource tentatively entitled “Electronic Draft Law” – a single platform for all legislative initiative entities to register draft acts, which will make it possible to track the status of the bill.
For additional information, please contact Iryna Cherpak at tel.: +38067 242 80 91.
Preparation of the analytical materials is a part of a project implemented by the NGO Agency of Legislative Initiatives with the support of USAID RADA Program: Responsible Accountable Democratic Assembly, implemented by East Europe Foundation.