EVERY year, in the last plenary session of the legislature before the summer recess, a long list of bills is rushed through, either because they were prepared at the last minute or because they had been gathering dust at House committees for months. At the start of July, deputies pressured by the government suddenly discover a big sense of urgency and pass more laws in a day than they had passed the previous three months.
There is a variety of reasons for the last day mad rush. The government tables bills a couple of weeks before the scheduled recess demanding they were approved – the reform of the teacher appointment system, changes to the tax laws and amendment of the Minimum Guaranteed Income law were such examples – because it wants them in force by late September when the legislature opens again. Then there are bills that were promptly submitted but had been delayed at committees because of endless discussions by deputies.
There have even been times in the past when the government has submitted a bill, marked as urgent, just a day before the last session was scheduled. Laws should not be passed by summary procedures, which is invariably what happens in the last session of the plenum. This last-minute practice, which might be acceptable when booking a holiday but not when passing laws, goes some way in explaining omissions, phrases lacking clarity and unconstitutional provisions in laws. These deficiencies might not have been eliminated if deputies had more time to study the bills, as very few spend their time combing through every provision, but they would have been restricted.
The last-minute approach gives the impression that neither the government nor the political parties take law-making very seriously. This is also reflected in the tendency of deputies to approve laws they know to be in violation of the constitution, as was the case with Sunday shop hours and with the recent law allowing civil servants to hold positions in political parties, in defiance of the advice of three different Attorney-generals. Then again, what could be expected from lawmakers who pass laws minimising the income tax they have to pay.
This mad rush to pass laws in the last session is a sad reflection of how lightly our lawmakers actually take their work and, by extension, the law. Very few, it appears, are affected by professional pride or the desire to do their job as well as possible, despite the fact that they are very generously rewarded.