Right of initiative (legislative)

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The right of (legislative) initiative is the constitutionally defined power to propose a new law (bill).

The right of initiative is usually attributed to parliaments, which in most countries have the right to make law proposals, alone or sharing this right with the government.

In parliamentary systems it is common that both the government (executive) and the parliament have legislative initiative, but it also can be restricted to the government and the lower house of parliament, or even to the government alone.

In presidential systems legislative initiative usually only rests with the congress, such as in the United States. This, however, does not preclude the executive from suggesting the introduction of certain laws to their backers in the congress.

Right of initiative in France[edit]

In France, ministerial bills are called law projects and parliament's bills are called law proposals.

Law projects[edit]

In France, most of the bills are proposed by the government. One of the ministers propose the bill to those concerned by his application. Then, if the different ministers manage an agreement, the bill is sent to the secrétariat général du gouvernement and then to the Conseil d'État, the Council of Ministers, the Parliament, and so on... The Conseil d'État (and sometimes the Constitutional Council) has the duty to advise the government on law projects.

Law proposals[edit]

Any MP can propose a law to the parliament. Law proposals, unlike law projects, can be directly deposed if they do not increase the state's expenditure.

Both kind of bills can be first deposed to the Senate or the National Assembly

Only 10% of adopted laws are proposed by Members of Parliament. This is mainly because the government get several means to limit the parliament's power:

  • Government is fixing most of the agenda of both chambers.
  • He can, under some conditions, prevent the parliament from modifying his texts.

The parliament's legislative initiative has at the same time good and bad points. It is mostly criticized because some lobbies could impel the parliament to satisfy them before other citizens. But, on the other hand, legislative initiative is the best way for the parliament to defend against possible government's encroachments.

Legislative initiative in the European Union[edit]

The European Commission has the right of legislative initiative. However, under the Treaty of Maastricht enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has an indirect right of legislative initiative that allows it to ask the Commission to submit a proposal.[1] Member states also have the right of legislative initiative concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy. In fact only 10% of all legislative proposals come from the commission. Others proposals made by the Commission are initially requested by the member states, the parliament, or other organizations, for example NGOs).

Some politicians, including Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, feel that the Commission's monopoly on legislative initiative prevent the emergence or development of real democratic debate.

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