Type of act
Decision
Date
27-05-2010 year
To the case

Decision №8

София, 27 май 2010г.

Конституционният съд в състав:

Chairman:

Евгени Танчев

Members:

Емилия Друмева
Георги Петканов
Владислав Славов
Ванюшка Ангушева
Димитър Токушев
Цанка Цанкова
Благовест Пунев
Стефка Стоева
Пламен Киров
Румен Ненков

DECISION NO 8 OF 27 MAY 2010 ON CONSTITUTIONAL CASE № 2/2010

The procedure that allows to hold both ballots on a bill during a single session ( Art . 88, para 1, sentence two of the Constitution ) shall always allow MPs to come up with propositions on the bill texts whenever they wish to do so.

The challenge of 54 MPs maintains that the Act Amending the National Archives Act (DV, No 103/2009) is noncompliant with Art. 4, para 1, Art. 67, para 2, Art. 87, para 1 and Art. 88, para 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (the Constitution). The MPs believe that the new legal text that the National Assembly passed was approved by a voting procedure which is not the procedure that the Constitution prescribes. The bill was passed on first reading and immediately a second ballot was held during the same session despite the objections of some MPs who wanted to make propositions regarding certain texts of the bill.

The Constitutional Court has been approached many times with disputes on the Constitution prescription of the mandatory ballots ( readings ) of any bill ( Art .88, para 1 of the Constitution ) and ruled in a sense that the two readings of bills are the crucial phases of the legislating process and are held in the form of a floor discussion and ballot. The existing parliamentary jurisprudence prescribes that before the first reading each bill shall be discussed by the Committees to which the Speaker of the National Assembly has assigned it. Once the bill is passed on first floor reading “on the whole and in principle”, there follows the phase of propositions in writing that may be submitted by MPs between the first and second reading. The MPs' propositions, if any, on the bill are addressed to the relevant lead committee. This phase is not mentioned in the Constitution; however, without such a phase the second floor reading is simply senseless: what is the purpose of the second reading if a bill shall not be changed or supplemented between the first and second reading? The right to submit propositions between the first and second reading is limited in two aspects only: the bill movant shall not make propositions regarding his or her draft texts; the propositions that are at variance with the principles and the scope of the bill that has been approved on first reading shall not be discussed and put to vote.

As the legislating process contains the rule of two floor ballots as crucial phases in the passage of any bill , then by definition the laws passed will contain texts that will be based on propositions that have been submitted between the first and second reading and that have been subject to just one floor discussion and ballot on second reading. This is not in contravention of the Constitution prescription of Art. 88, para 1 of the two ballots (readings) since the voting of the texts proposed between the first and second reading is part of the second reading itself whereas the propositions made are elements of the legislating procedure after the first reading. There cannot be a second reading unless MPs have the freedom to submit in writing proposed changes and supplements in the bill texts.

The Constitutional Court practice definitively stresses the possibility to introduce changes in the bills between the first and second reading in the National Assembly . The Constitutional Court Decision № 14/2001 on Constitutional Case № 7/2001 ruled that “ the Constitution does not restrict the lawmaker ' s freedom to supplement or change bills between the first and second reading ” and that ,,it is only natural and compliant with the Constitution to change or supplement the bills submitted in the course of their discussion .” From this point of view the requirement to pass bills with two ballots during different sessions is closely associated with the provision of guarantees to exercise the right of MPs to propose to introduce changes in the original bill texts.

Art. 88, para 1 of the Constitution leaves the question whether, by way of exception, the National Assembly may resolve to hold both ballots during a single session at the MPs' discretion. However, if the National Assembly resolves to hold both ballots during a single session, MPs shall not be disallowed to submit propositions on the bill that has been approved on first reading. It will be counter to the Constitution if the political majority in Parliament abuses this optional opportunity. This opportunity shall not restrict pluralism of opinion in Parliament. The MPs' right to propose to change bill texts between the first and second reading shall not be curtailed in whatever form even when both ballots are held during a single session. Such a curtailment will be inconsistent with the nature of the legislating process in a democratic state (Art. 62 of the Constitution) and will be a retreat from the principle of political pluralism that Art. 11, para 1 of the Constitution proclaims. The resolution to hold both ballots during a single session (Art. 88, para 1, sentence 2 of the Constitution) shall not preclude the optional opportunity to submit propositions regarding texts that have been approved on first reading and that must be discussed in a floor discussion before the bill is put to final vote.

Drawing on the minutes of the session the Constitutional Court concluded that in the passage of the Act Amending the National Archives Act some MPs did ask to be given the floor to propose changes in the bill that had been approved on first reading , however , the majority turned down the request and proceeded immediately with the second ballot during the same session . By doing so the majority in Parliament violated the principles of the state committed to the rule of law ( Art. 4 , para 1 of the Constitution) and of political pluralism (Art. 11, para 1 of the Constitution). The procedure that allows to hold both ballots on a bill during a single session ( Art . 88, para 1, sentence two of the Constitution ) shall always allow MPs to come up with propositions on the bill texts whenever they wish to do so.


Председател: Евгени Танчев