Latvian president sends lawmaking wish-list to parliament

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has sent a letter to parliament, the Saeima, listing various changes that he thinks should be made to the legislative process in order to improve its efficiency and quality.

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The news came August 21, though according to the presidential press service, the letter (attached) was actually dated August 18.

In the letter, the president calls for amendments to several articles of the Saeima's rules of procedure aimed at "raising the quality of law-making, achieving greater transparency in the legislative process and promoting public confidence in state power."

The proposals foresee future annotations to all draft laws to answer questions about why any given law is necessary and what its possible impact on the economy and other areas of life may be. 

"Only by answering the above questions, it is possible to carefully assess the necessity of a possible law and the suitability of the proposed solution," said Vejonis.

According to a news release accompanying the text of the letter, the President believes that draft law making proposals should also include information on the consultations that have taken place during the preparation of the proposal and the various different persons involved in the drafting of the law.

Vejonis also points explicitly to the experience of the Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, as an example to follow.

"In order to be able to understand the goals of the legislator and the regulatory framework included in the law, the President calls on the Saeima to take up the good practice of the Estonian Parliament, where the responsible committee draws up an explanatory report for each draft law. It contains information on the progress of preparation of the draft law, the reasons why any proposals are supported but others are rejected, as well as information on the considerations of the parties, experts and proposers of the proposals," the release and letter said.

Vējonis also notes that adoption of a law only to be followed by frequent tinkering with it, as frequently happens, points towards low-quality legislative work and undermines public confidence in the competence and fairness of lawmakers' work.

Similarly, he says that last-minute amendments at the third and final reading of a bill before it passes into law should not be allowed, in order to avoid "hacked, last-minute solutions with high error rates."

Such measures can also be used as a way of railroading items into law without proper discussion - though the president does not explicitly say so.

Vējonis had previously signalled his intention to present his recommendations to Saeima, but doing so is still fairly unusual in that his proposals are not related so much to a particular law produced by Saeima but to laws that regulate the workings of the Saeima itself. As such his proposals may be taken as a challenge by some within Saeima and have the potential to see Saeima and the President staking out their own legislative rights.

Vējonis has recently returned several bills he deemed unsatisfactory to the Saeima, citing low quality drafting or rushed, last-minute amendments. In some cases Saeima has taken notice, but in others, such as the recent passing of a bill about insolvency administrators his concerns were waved aside - and ultimately it is Saeima, not the President, that decides what laws get passed.   

Saeima also ignored the last letter they received from Riga castle asking for changes in the composition of the parliamentary commission looking into the 'oligarch conversations' scandal.

 

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