Law-making

The Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature is the highest law-making body in the province that passes laws to improve the lives of the people of the Eastern Cape. The Legislature debates Bills (draft laws), government policies and other political issues.

THE STAGES THAT A BILL GOES THROUGH BEFORE BECOMING A LAW
Members of the Executive Council (MECs) or Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) or a Portfolio Committee can initiate a Bill. The law-making process begins when an MEC or a MPL or a Portfolio Committee decides that a new law is necessary. The MEC submits the proposed draft law (called a Bill) to the Executive Council and consults stakeholders and the public in the province. If the Executive Council agrees to the Bill, the Bill is tabled onto the Order Paper. The MEC formally introduces it in the Provincial Legislature and the Bill is considered to have been read for the first time. There is no discussion at this stage.

The Bill is referred to the relevant Portfolio Committee for consideration, discussion and debate. For example if the Bill concerns health matters, it will be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Health, which deals with health issues.

The Bill will be discussed in detail and any changes can be made if the majority of the committee agrees. The Committee can also call in experts to comment on it. At this stage, the public can express its views. Public hearings provide the opportunity for the public to voice their opinion by making verbal or written submission to a standing committee. Any member of the public has the right to make a submission. The Portfolio Committee will compile a report that will take into consideration all submissions made by the public. Only the Portfolio Committee can make final changes to the Bill.

After the Portfolio Committee has finished its work, the Bill goes to a full sitting of the Legislature to be debated by all political parties. All MPLs then vote on the Bill. If the majority of votes are in favour of the Bill, it is passed, and goes to the Premier to be signed into law and it is promulgated (declared official) in the Provincial Gazette. The Bill will now be known as an Act. If there is no majority, the Bill is rejected. The Act will be published in the Provincial Government Gazette.

DEALING WITH NATIONAL BILLS
The Provincial Legislature also deals with national laws. There are two kinds of national laws; Section 76 Bills and Section 75 Bills.

Section 76 Bills are Bills over which the province has real power, because these Bills directly affect the province. Each province has one vote on these Bills. This means that each Provincial Legislature discusses the Bill and decides how the province will vote. The Legislature then gives its delegation in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) a mandate on how it must vote.

Section 75 Bills are national Bills that do not affect the powers of the provinces. The Provincial Legislatures do not decide how their provinces will vote on these laws, although they may discuss them. Members of the NCOP can choose how to vote (usually they will vote with their political party). The Legislature may even hold a public hearing on such a Bill. This enables the National Parliament to consult at a local level.

TERMINOLOGY USED DURING DEBATES 
 

INTERPELLATIONS                  

Mini debates on issues that concern Members.

 

SNAP DEBATES                      

Debates on important political issues in the country.

 

INTRODUCTION OF MOTION     

MPLs or political parties can introduce motions (or subjects) for debate in the Legislature. The Legislature can be asked to take a decision (called a ‘resolution') on such a motion.

 

QUESTION TIME                                  

Time is allocated for weekly questions to provide MPLs the chance to question MECs about their work; this ensures that MPLs can obtain information and check that MECs and provincial departments are doing their work properly. MECs are obliged to answer  these questions.

 

ORDER PAPER

Daily agenda that contains information about what topics will be under discussion on each particular day of the House sitting (such as what laws are before the Legislature and which Portfolio Committees are meeting).

 

HANSARD

Everything that is said during the debates, including the replies of MECs to questions posed by MPLs, is recorded, transcribed, edited and printed in a publication called Hansard (it is available from the library of the Legislature).

 

GREEN PAPER, WHITE PAPER

Before a Bill is drafted, Government produces a Green Paper and a White Paper. A Green Paper is the government's thoughts on a particular issue, whilst a White Paper contains recommendations and concrete suggestions. Both the Green and White Paper stages are important for lobbying, as these come early in the legislative process. If the White Paper suggests that new laws should be drafted or existing laws amended, a draft Bill will be developed.