Legislation in the State of Israel – How it will look like in 2019
“The main function of the Knesset as the legislative authority, is to pass laws.”
Today we have in Israel almost 1000 laws – excessively many.
As we see, The Knesset has a main function: To create and pass laws but unfortunately, some of our MK took the job “very seriously” – so seriously, the Knesset is changing its own rules in order to block excessive legislation or in other words – stop so many MK from trying to pass so many unnecessary laws.
In the 15th Knesset for example (today we are at the 20th), more than 4000 bills were presented and this number is just growing.
Even if the MK worked 24/7 it would be impossible to analyze and pass so many bills into laws.
Legislation can be initiated by the Government (Government bills), by one or more Members of Knesset (private bills), or by a Knesset committee. A bill can propose a totally new piece of legislation, or it may propose an amendment to, or the cancellation of an existing law. The entire legislative process is listed in the Knesset Rules of Procedure.
Private bills are rarely passed because of the coalition system meaning many laws are a “compromise” between the original idea of the law and the law accepted by others MK in order to be a law presented by a “party” and not a private law with very little chances of been passed.
Bills are advanced in a number of stages, called readings. Each reading of a bill is adopted or rejected by a vote of the Knesset members present in the Plenum at the time. Between each reading there are debates within the Knesset committees, and they prepare the bill for the next stage of legislation. After passing the third reading, the bill is published in the Official Gazette and becomes a law of the State of Israel.
Most laws (95%) do not pass the first stage, dying as is at most after the preliminary reading.
Preliminary Reading: This stage is only relevant to private bills. The Member of Knesset (or group of MKs) presents the bill together with an explanation to the Knesset Presidium (the Speaker of the Knesset and his/her deputies) for approval. A bill that has been approved to be placed on the Knesset’s agenda is usually placed on the Knesset table at least 45 days before it is brought to the Plenum for the preliminary reading. The reading begins with an opening statement from the MK who presented the bill, continues with the government’s response or the objection of another MK, and ends with a vote. If the Plenum decides to remove the bill from its agenda, the bill or any one identical to it will not be discussed in a preliminary reading during the following six months. If the Knesset approves the bill, it is transferred to a Knesset committee to be prepared for its first reading. The bill will be published in the appendix to the official Knesset Records (“Divrei HaKnesset”) of that meeting. The private bills placed on the Knesset table are also published on the Knesset’s website.
Preparation for First Reading: If a private bill was approved in the preliminary reading, it is discussed in a Knesset committee. The committee can decide to prepare the bill for its first reading, or remove it from the agenda. The committee invites the relevant government officials and others to the discussion. The committee also invites a representative from the Finance Ministry in order to clarify the estimated budget for the bill. If the government opposes a private bill that will cost NIS 5 million or more annually, the bill will require the support of at least 50 MKs during the first, second and third readings in order to pass. After preparing a bill for the first reading, the committee transfers it to the Secretary General of the Knesset to be published in the Official Gazette of Bills and to be placed on the Knesset table. Private bills that are prepared for the first reading are also published on the Knesset’s website.
The cost of a bill is the total expenditure for that specific law (e.g – giving the invalids an extra X% will cost the taxes payers in 2018 a total of 2 billion shekels).
Reading: A Government bill is published by the Government in the Official Gazette of Government Bills and is presented to the Speaker of the Knesset, who places the bill on the Knesset table. Usually, a discussion concerning a Government bill takes place at least two days after being placed on the Knesset table. The deliberation begins with the opening statement of a Government representative (a Minister or Deputy Minister) in the case of a Government bill, or with the opening statement of the MK presenting the bill in the case of a private bill. The Plenum holds a debate on the bill, in which all MKs are allowed to participate, and at the end of the debate the Knesset decides whether the bill should be removed from the agenda. In such a case, an identical or similar bill will not be discussed in a preliminary reading during the following six months. If the bill is approved, it is transferred to a Knesset committee to be prepared for the second and third readings.
Preparation for Second and Third Readings: The committee can decide to prepare the bill for the second and third readings, or to propose to the Knesset that the bill be removed from her agenda. The committee is entitled to suggest amendments to the bill, and the MKs and ministers are entitled to request that amendments they suggested but were rejected will be recorded as reservations. The MK who submitted the bill can decide to withdraw it at any point during the committee discussions after the first reading.
Second Reading: The chair of the committee that prepared the bill presents the bill to the Knesset, and the MKs and ministers who submitted reservations explain them. Afterwards, the committee chair puts the bill to a vote. The Knesset votes first on the reservations. If there are no reservations, the Knesset will vote on the article as it was written in the committee. If there are reservations, the Knesset will vote on the article according to the version containing the reservation. Bills discussed in second and third readings are published in the appendix of the official Knesset Records for that meeting. The Government is entitled to withdraw a Government bill at any point until the vote during the third reading.
Third Reading: This vote usually occurs immediately after the vote on the bill’s articles in the second reading. However, if there were reservations, the vote may be postponed by a week. During the third reading, the Knesset votes on the final version of the bill as it was approved in the second reading, with no discussion beforehand. After being approved in the third reading, the laws are published in a non-official version on the Knesset’s website. Afterwards, they are published in the Official Gazette, which also appears on the Knesset’s website. The laws take effect as soon as they are published in the Official Gazette.
A bill submitted by a committee is not required to pass the preliminary reading stage. However, such a bill can deal only with basic laws or laws related to the Knesset, Members of Knesset, elections for the Knesset, political parties or the State Comptroller.
A personal touch:
When our honorable MK pass a law today, it doesn’t mean it will be a law, not yet – not if the Supreme Court decides this law was not drafted according to their (the supreme) standards.
This is called in Israel: Judicial activism and some would call it Barak Activism (Aaron Barak a former chief justice who unfortunately initiated this undemocratic philosophy, retiring in 2006).
Even today the majority of the siting judges in the Supreme Court sides this philosophy but winds of changes are arriving and getting stronger every day.
The debate over judicial activism has been hot in Israel (and in the US as well) for some time now but with the new Minister of Justice it is in high gear now.
This is the title of a very good article in the Jerusalem Post (November 2016) explaining in short, what the debate is about – Regarding the judicial activism about.
Time will tell when we the people, the voters, will know that a law is a law and not a “pending law” waiting for approval from those who were never voted but just elected to represent the will of the people who are represented by the Knesset and not by the Supreme Court.
Most of this article, is based on the Knesset site (my quotes are all in Italic)