MKs propose letting the public submit legislation to the Knesset

The publicly proposed bills cannot be Basic Laws or amendments to Basic Laws, which have constitutional status, or deal with foreign relations, national security or taxation among others.

January 19, 2016 00:13
2 minute read.

The Knesset plenum . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Is there a law you always thought the Knesset should pass? Soon, you may have a chance to submit it yourself, if a bill submitted by MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) on Monday becomes law.

With Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s blessing, the coalition and opposition MKs worked together on the draft bill, which they nicknamed “the 121st MK,” and would allow a public proposal with at least 50,000 signatures to enter the legislative process.

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The publicly proposed bills cannot be Basic Laws or amendments to Basic Laws, which have constitutional status, or deal with foreign relations, national security, taxation, budgets beyond NIS 5 million or pardoning criminals.

Bills submitted by the public would be able to skip a preliminary vote, which is required of private member bills. However, they would go through the Knesset presidium, the forum of the Knesset Speaker and his deputies, which can block bills if they violate Basic Laws or are racist, among other reasons. In addition they would have to make it through the Knesset House Committee, discussions in the relevant legislative committee, and three votes in the plenum.

Like all legislation, only MKs would be able to vote on the publicly proposed bills,.

Edelstein called it “very important to bring the public closer to the legislature and let it try to influence the democratic process, not just by voting for representatives in the Knesset once every few years.”

Bar said the proposal “balances the Knesset’s dignity as the legislator, while allowing public participation.... It will dramatically broaden citizens’ participation in the democratic process.

We believe the public is smart. We believe in the wisdom of crowds.”

The bill is not populist, Bar said, but is meant to make Israeli democracy more accessible.

Kisch said that 50,000 signatures is enough to keep not just any idea from becoming a bill, but low enough so that it wouldn’t be impossible to attain.

The Likud MK predicted that legalizing cannabis would be one of the bills to come from the public. When asked why he thinks ministers, who tend to be wary of opposition bills, would let his proposal pass, Kisch said that he is confident the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will approve the bills, because it falls under the Knesset Speaker’s jurisdiction, and Edelstein approved it. “We want to express the will of the people in the clearest way possible,” Kisch said.

“This technological age allows greater social involvement and citizens have a great amount of knowledge. There is no reason for them not to be able to have their say on issues they care about.”

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