Acts are the result of work in multiple stages. The first stage of legislation involves the drafting of a Bill. During the second stage, the Bill is initiated in the Riigikogu. The Bill will then pass three readings, during which it is refined and amended. After having been passed by the Riigikogu, the Act is sent to the President of the Republic for proclamation, and is then published in Riigi Teataja (State Gazette).
Work with Acts
Acts create the rules for different fields of life in Estonia – the axis for the functioning of the state. This is why working with Acts is the most important and also the most time consuming task of the Riigikogu. This work is called the proceeding of Bills and it is regulated by the Riigkogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.
Acts can be initiated by a member, a faction or a committee of the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic. The initiated Bill is submitted to the chair of a plenary sitting of the Riigikogu before the start of the sitting.
The Riigikogu and the Government work together in law-making. A large percentage of Bills is initiated by the Government, who thus also takes part in their proceeding. The opinion of the Government must be asked on Bills initiated by the members, factions or committees of the Riigikogu.
First, the concept and the structure of the Bill are worked out, its scope is determined, the used terms are defined and the initial version of the text is drawn up. In the explanatory memorandum accompanying each Bill, its authors explain the purpose of the new Act. It is important to involve the interest groups who are the most directly impacted by the future Act into the creation of the Act.
The thorough deliberation of a Bill at a Riigikogu plenary sitting is called a reading. Passing of an Act requires three readings. Only in certain cases, such as the ratification of foreign treaties, two readings are sufficient. Between the readings, the Bill is deliberated by the leading committee.
General principles of the Bill are discussed at the first reading. A decision is made whether to continue the proceeding of the Bill in the Riigikogu or not.
At the second reading, the provisions of the Bill are discussed and motions to amend are put to the vote. The second reading can be suspended and additional motions to amend the Bill can be presented. If the reading is not suspended, the second reading is considered to be complete and the Bill is sent to the third reading. The passing of the Bill is decided at the third reading.
The procedure of all the three readings follows the definite rules set out in the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.
The Act specifies who may make motions to amend, as well as when and how, what is the procedure for voting on these and how many minutes are allowed for a speech. Thus, if a speech is made from the rostrum, it may last 5+3 minutes, according to the agreement with the chair of the sitting. A speech made from the seat of the MP in the Hall may take up to 2 minutes.
Generally, the adoption of an Act requires a majority vote in favour, i.e. most of the MPs present at the sitting must vote in favour of passing the Act. An exception is constituted by the so-called constitutional acts listed in the Constitution, which require the majority of the members of the Riigikogu, i.e. at least 51 votes in favour. One such Act is the Citizenship Act.
Entry into force
An Act passed by the Riigikogu is signed by its President. The Act is then sent to the President of the Republic for proclamation. After its proclamation, the Act is published in Riigi Teataja and generally enters into force on the tenth day after its publication. Unless the Act specifies another time for its entry into force.
In addition to Acts, the Riigikogu adopts various resolutions, statements, declarations and communications. The procedure for their proceeding is somewhat different from that of the Bills.
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