Pro advice for new MKs: Reach across the aisle to be effective

Israel holds world record for most bills proposed; Knesset legal adviser report shows private member bills more likely to pass with support across political spectrum

FAREWELL TO the Knesset (photo credit: REUTERS)
FAREWELL TO the Knesset
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A new MK looking for ways to make an impact may find the conclusions of a report published Monday by Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon enlightening.
“Contrary to the widespread view, the winning recipe for promoting private member bills” – meaning legislation proposed by parties or groups of MKs – “is cross-camp cooperation between members of the coalition and opposition,” Yinon said of the report summarizing and analyzing legislation passed by the 20th Knesset and comparing it to all 70 years of the Knesset’s work.
Yinon expressed hope that “members of the 21st Knesset, especially new MKs, will learn the report in order to focus their efforts in this area.”
The 20th Knesset broke legislative records in several areas, including most laws passed – 625; highest monthly average of laws passing – 13.59; and the highest number of bills proposed – 5,997 private member bills and 393 government bills. Those numbers do not have a direct correlation to how long the last Knesset lasted, 46 months long. Nine past Knessets remained intact longer, most recently the 18th, for 48 months in 2009-2013.
An Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) report on the 20th Knesset by Dr. Chen Friedberg, Avital Fridman and Niv Shoval found that Israel holds the world record for the most bills proposed in 2000-2016 and labeled most of the bills as “‘bill declarations’ whose main purpose is to generate public and media interest and not necessarily to generate discussion and certainly not to be passed into law.”
The IDI report says the negative impact of proposing thousands of bills includes “making a mockery of the value of private member bills; hampering the quality and implementation of the legislation because in many cases, MKs are paying more attention to the quantity and less to the quality of the legislation; flooding the Knesset committees... and increasing their work burden; and the inability of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation to hold thorough discussions on so many proposals.”
Of the laws that passed, 246 were private member bills, 359 were government bills and 20 came from Knesset committees.
Of the private member bills, 77% (4,646) did not move past the proposal stage. Only 4% private member bills became laws.
This was in part due to a policy by departing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked meant to counter over-regulation.
Of the laws that passed, 63% had primary sponsors from the coalition, while 37% were first sponsored by opposition MKs. But most (60%) had sponsors from the coalition and opposition, while only 31% came from coalition members alone, while 9% were only sponsored by opposition MKs.
The most popular topic for bills in the 20th Knesset was the legal system with 109 bills, followed by public health with 106 and criminal justice, with 97 bills. After that came welfare with 86 and taxation with 78.
The IDI found that, in the 20th Knesset, the Ethics Committee punished 29 MKs a total of 48 times.
Seven MKs were suspended from parliamentary work. The lawmakers with the longest suspensions were Oren Hazan of Likud, for a total of 37 weeks, Balad MK Basel Ghattas for 26 weeks and Balad’s Jamal Zahalke for 13 weeks. In addition, MKs’ salaries were docked for periods ranging from one day to a week. Six ministers were punished, two for not spending the minimum amount of time in the plenum.