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Legislative initiative is the constitutionally defined power to propose law proposals (bills).

Legislative initiative is usually attributed to parliaments, which in most countries have the right to make law proposals, alone or sharing this right with governments.

In parliamentary systems it is common that both the government (executive) and the parliament have legislative initiative, but it also can be restricted to the government and the lower house of parliament, or even to the government alone.

In congressional systems legislative initiative only rests with the congress, such as in the United Statesmarker. This, however, does not preclude the executive from suggesting the introduction of certain laws to their backers in the congress.

Legislative initiative in France

In France, ministerial bills are called law projects and parliament's bills are called law proposals.

Law projects

In France, most of the bills are proposed by the government. One of the ministers propose the bill to those concerned by his application. Then, if the different ministers manage an agreement, the bill is send to the secrétariat général du gouvernement and then to the Conseil d'État, the Council of Ministers, the Parliament, and so on...The Conseil d'État (and sometimes the Constitutional Council) has the duty to advise the government on law projects.

Law proposals

Any MP can propose a law to the parliament.Law proposals, unlike law projects, can be directly deposed if they do not increase the state's expenditure.

Both kind of bills can be first deposed to the Senatemarker or the National Assembly

Only 10% of adopted laws are proposed by Members of Parliament.This is mainly because the government get several means to limit the parliament's power:
  • Government is fixing most of the agenda of both chambers.
  • He can, under some conditions, prevent the parliament from modifying his texts.

The parliament's legislative initiative has at the same time good and bad points.It is mostly criticized because some lobbies could impel the parliament to satisfy them before other citizens.But, on the other hand, legislative initiative is the best way for the parliament to defend against possible government's encroachments.

Legislative initiative in the European Union

The European Commission is the only European institution that has legislative initiative.The council only decides on proposal from the commission.But the member states also have a legislative initiative concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy.In fact only 10% of the proposals are from the commission only. Others proposals from the commission are requested by the member states, the parliament or other organism (e.g. NGO).

Some politicians like Jean-Pierre Chevènement or Dominique Strauss-Kahn think that this monopoly of the initiative prevent from creating a real democratic debate.


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