Law-making is the main task of the Riigikogu.
The first phase of law-making consists of all the preparatory work that is necessary, before a draft law can be handed over to the Riigikogu for legislative proceeding. In this phase, the concept and structure of the future Act is worked out, its scope is determined, terms are defined and the initial version of the text is drawn up. In the explanatory memorandum accompanying each draft Act, its authors explain the purpose of the new Act.
The second phase in law-making begins with the initiation of the draft Act in the Riigikogu. Differently from the first phase, the second one is subject to strict regulation. Legislative proceeding of a draft Act in the Riigikogu can be initiated only by a member, faction or committee of the Riigikogu or by the Government of the Republic. For conducting the legislative proceeding of a draft Act, the Board of the Riigikogu appoints a committee to function as leading committee of the draft Act.
After the leading committee has taken a position on the draft Act, it submits the draft Act to the plenary assembly of the Riigikogu for deliberation. Deliberations of draft Acts at sittings of the Riigikogu are called readings. A draft Act has to pass three readings in all.
At the first reading, a draft Act is introduced to the members of the Riigikogu and its general principles are discussed. After the close of the first reading, members of the Riigikogu can submit motions to amend to the leading committee.
At the second reading of a draft Act, provisions of the draft Act are deliberated and the leading committee comments on the motions to amend submitted. After that, each member of the Riigikogu may express his/her opinion about the draft Act. Should a member of the Riigikogu request so, any motion to amend, accepted by the leading committee, shall be put to a vote.
The second reading of a draft Act can be suspended. The purpose of suspending is to get additional time for improving the draft Act. Again, a term is established for submitting motions to amend. If the second reading is not suspended, it is deemed to be concluded and the draft Act is sent to the third reading.
For the third reading, the final text of a draft Act is submitted. The draft Act is open to debate for the last time; in the debate, only representatives of factions may participate this time. After the debate is closed, the draft Act is put to a final vote. In order to pass a simple Act, a majority of votes in favour cast by the members of the Riigikogu attending the sitting is required. In § 104 of the Constitution the Acts are listed, which may be passed and amended only by a majority of the membership of the Riigikogu, i.e. such Acts must receive at least 51 votes in favour.
The Acts passed by the Riigikogu are presented to the President of the Republic for proclamation. The President may use his/her right of veto and return the Act to the Riigikogu. If the Riigikogu does not amend the Act, the President of the Republic has the right to propose to the Supreme Court to declare the Act unconstitutional.
After an Act is proclaimed, it is published in the Riigi Teataja (State Gazette).
Legislative proceeding of draft acts in the Riigikogu - graph