Transparency in the legislative process: A series

While the way laws pass is ostensibly transparent and votes in the plenum are open for all to see, many of the steps on the way to a bill’s third and final reading take place behind closed doors, or information on them is inaccessible.

Part one: Nearly every member of Knesset has experienced the following: The MK writes a bill that he or she thinks is necessary and in the public interest, checks with an adviser to make sure there aren’t any major legal issues with the bill and then submits it to the Knesset. Weeks later, it goes to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and is rejected, with no explanation.

Now the bill is buried, because the panel’s decision becomes the coalition’s official policy, and the MK can’t propose it again for months. Continue reading

Part two: The Knesset committees are where bills are shaped and changed into the form that is brought to the plenum for a final vote, which may be drastically different from their original version.

If someone is following a specific bill on an issue that doesn’t have a high enough profile to necessarily make it into the newspapers every step of the legislative process, he or she may find it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to independently find out who voted for or against the latest version.

Several organizations track the Knesset’s activities on specific issues, sending volunteers to sit in committee meetings and report what happened in them, but even they have trouble finding the exact information. Continue reading

Part three: Election fever is in the air as politicians threaten to pull out of the government over peace talks. Plus, MKs will soon vote for a new president, and some of the candidates have a long political career and many Knesset votes in their pasts.

Concerned citizens who want to look up the voting record of a potential president or candidate for reelection to the next Knesset may be disappointed when they try to find it on the Knesset website.

Those citizens would have to look up each individual bill to find out whether the MK in question voted yea, nay, or abstained. Continue reading

Part four: The Knesset is the perfect setting for a drama. It’s full of power, intrigue and ambition and Tomer Avital, in his 2013 book The Parliament, added murder to the mix.

Avital admitted his Hebrew murder mystery novel was written with an agenda, describing an extreme case of what can happen when there is a lack of transparency in the Knesset, particularly in regards to lobbyists.

Lobbyists have turned into bogeymen for some in the Knesset, always lurking around trying to pressure MKs to vote one way or another – depending on who’s paying the lobbyist that day. Others, however, think MKs need to take responsibility for their own actions and that too much blame is placed on lobbyists. Continue reading

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