This is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, Antonio Casu (Direttore della Biblioteca, Camera dei Deputati), and Vito Cozzoli (Consigliere Capo dell’Avvocatura, Camera dei Deputati). This is the second post in a series describing the main aspects of the Italian legislature. The first post discussed the development of the modern Italian government.
The Italian Republican Constitution – which entered into effect on January 1, 1948 – establishes a perfect bicameralism system for the Italian Parliament: the Senato della Repubblica (Senate of the Republic) and the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies), which jointly exercise the legislative function (art. 70). This means that for a bill to become law, the identical text must be approved by both Chambers of Parliament; therefore, the “shuttle” (or navette) of a bill to and from the Chambers of Parliament continues until both approve an identical version.
The Iter Legis (Law Making Process) in Italy
The process for the formation of the law is established in the Constitution and in the Parliamentary Procedure Rules and includes the following phases:
- Legislative initiative;
- Approval of the bill by the respective Chamber;
- Transference of approved text to the other Chamber for its approval of the same text, or with amendments;
- The so-called navette, which occurs when the text of a bill is amended and sent to the other chamber for the approval of an identical version;
- Promulgation by the President of the Republic (who may resend the law to both Chambers for re-examination); and
- Publication of the law in the Official Gazette (Gazzetta Ufficiale).
There are three types of legislative procedures in Italy: the ordinary procedure, and two abbreviated procedures.
Ordinary Legislative Procedure
This is always utilized for the discussion of constitutional and electoral laws (art. 138), for delegated legislation (art. 76), for legislation concerning the ratification of international treaties (art. 80), and for the approval of budgets and accounts (art. 81). The phases of this procedure are the following:
- Submission of a Bill: A bill, preceded by an explanatory report, may be presented by the Government (that is, the Council of Ministers), by any deputy, by at least by 50,000 voters (concerning bills of popular initiative), by the National Council of the Economy and Labor, or by the Regional Councils (the Italian Republic is composed of 20 regions, which are entitled to pass their own legislation on subjects that do not pertain to the national State). At the Chamber of Deputies, the text presented by the Government is defined as a definitive bill, while all of the others are defined as proposals of laws;
- First Review of the Bill: The bill is first assigned to the competent parliamentary Committee (steering Committee), which conducts an inquiry, and prepares a report with the text of the bill for the Assembly. In its inquiry, the Committee may determine to review two or more bills jointly (called ‘matched’) in order to submit a single report and text to the Assembly. To this end, the Committee may choose one of the bills as a basic text for the debate, or may draft a unified text of the several bills. During the review, the Steering Committee obtains the opinions of other Committees in matters of their competence; in this case, these committees are said to operate “in sede referente” –as a referral source. All committees may also conduct non-parliamentary hearings to receive observations on a given bill. At the end of its work, the Steering Committee appoints a rapporteur to prepare a report for the Chamber of Deputies; minority reports may be submitted by deputies who disagree with the result of the Committee’s work.
- Parliamentary Debate and Approval: For the plenary debate, a Committee of Nine (Comitato dei Nove) is appointed at the Chamber of Deputies, and a Committee of Seven (Comitato dei Sette) at the Senate. These committees includes the rapporteurs and representatives of the Committee’s groups in sede referente. In the case of the Chamber of Deputies, the debate begins with an explanation of the text by the rapporteur, followed by the intervention of the Government’s representative; next comes the presentation of deputies, who express the opinions of the parliamentary groups. Then, each provision of the bill is examined, and a vote is held on the amendments to the text prepared by the Committee. The declaration that a final vote is being taken directs the plenary to hold a vote on the project as a whole.
Abbreviated Legislative Procedures
There are two abbreviated legislative procedure in Italy:
- Examination and approval of bills by Committees acting as legislative bodies (in sede legislativa): Under this procedure, a committee reviews and approves a bill. Such approval is conditioned to a triple-high level of consensus: internally at the Committee (by a quorum of four-fifths of its members); by certain committees (the so-called Committees-Filter: Constitutional, Budget, and Labor); and by the Government. If the Government, or 10% of the deputies, or 1/5 of the Committees request it, or if the mandatory opinion is not requested, the bill is re-submitted to the Plenary.
- Examination of the bill by a Committee as a draft (in sede redigente). A committee, specifically charged by the Plenary, prepares a text of the draft bill for the review of the Plenary which, however, must hold a final vote and may not amend the bill.
Once both Chambers of Parliament approve the identical text of the bill, the law is promulgated by the President of the Republic. The President may opt to resend the law to Parliament for a new review thus reopening the legislative procedure. If the law is approved again, the President must promulgate it.
After promulgation, the law is published by the Ministry of Justice by making an insertion of the text into the Official Collection (Raccolta ufficiale) of the normative of the Italian Republic, and is published in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic (Gazzetta Ufficiale della Repubblica italiana). The law enters into effect – and therefore becomes mandatory for all citizens – at the fifteenth day following its publication in the Official Gazette, except when the same law establishes another date. The date of the law is that of the decree of promulgation, and its number that of its insertion into the Official Collection.
According to the Constitution, each Legislature lasts five years, unless the President of the Republic dissolves the whole Parliament or one of its chambers before their term expires. Seventeen Legislatures have succeeded during the republican period. The current XVII Legislative Period of the Italian Parliament commenced in March 2013, following the general elections held in February 2013. The Chairs of both Chambers were elected on March 2013. In a joint session held on April 20, 2013, the Italian Parliament elected Giorgio Napolitano as President of the Republic for a second mandate of seven years. The President of the Republic appointed the new Government, headed by Mr. Enrico Letta who became President of the Council of Ministers after receiving a vote of confidence from both chambers.