First reading: Introduction of the Bill in Parliament
If Parliament does not dispense with 14 days’ notice requirement, the Bill, upon notice from the Minister, will be introduced in Parliament on the expiry of the notice period. Once the Bill is read for the first time, it is referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) to determine its constitutionality. Neither House can proceed to the Second Reading Stage until after the PLC has issued a report of its opinion on the Bill. Under Standing Order 32, the PLC has twenty-six business days within which to report on the constitutionality of a Bill. The twenty-six business days begin on the day the Bill is referred to the PLC.
Parliamentary Legal Committee
After the First Reading, the Bill is then referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC), to examine whether the Bill is in conformity with the Bill of Rights, any other provisions of the Constitution and the enabling Act.
When a non-adverse report from the PLC has been received or the adverse report has been disposed of, the Bill is set for second reading. This stage is opened by the sponsoring member, who makes a speech outlining the purpose of the Bill and the principles upon which it is based. This is followed by debate on these principles. No discussion on individual clauses is permissible, although reference may be made to these clauses as part of the debate. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee overseeing the Bill normally presents the Committee report on the Bill.
Next, the Bill is considered clause by clause by the committee of the whole house. At this stage, amendments to individual clauses are proposed and debated. The committee stage is chaired by the Deputy Speaker or Deputy President, as the case may be, and he/she is addressed as chairperson. Amendments proposed by oversight committees are discussed at this stage.
This stage involves making a report on the Bill, with or without amendments, to the whole house. If the Bill was considered by a committee of the whole house, the report stage is a mere formality.
This is the stage at which the Bill is put to a vote for either approval or rejection. For an ordinary Bill to pass there must be a majority from those present and voting. However, for a Constitutional Bill to pass there must be at least a two-thirds majority from the total membership of Parliament. Total membership excludes vacancies if there are any. This change was introduced in the 2013 Constitution to address past anomalies where total membership included even those seats that were vacant.
Transmission to the Other House
As soon as the Bill has been passed by the House of Origin, it is transmitted to the other House where the process begins on the Second Reading Stage. The second House may reject the Bill or pass it with or without amendments. Where the second house passes the Bill with amendments, it returns the Bill to the House of Origin. The House of Origin may reject, agree to, or incorporate the amendments made to the Bill. The decision of the National Assembly is supreme on any Bill not being a Constitutional Bill.
A Bill becomes law only after if it has been passed by both Houses and assent by the President has been given. After a Bill has been passed by both Houses, or after the National Assembly has overridden the Senate on Money Bills or other Bills, it is presented to the President for assent. The President is required to assent to the Bill within twenty-one days or if he withholds his assent, he shall return the Bill to Parliament. The copy of the Act with his signature and attaches a Public Seal.
Enrolment of the Act
After the Presidential assent, the Clerk of Parliament shall cause the authenticated copy of the Act to be enrolled on the record in the office of the registrar of the High Court. Such copy shall be conclusive evidence of the provisions of such Act.