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The passage of a law through Parliament

The Constitution states that the legislative function shall be exercised jointly by the two Houses of Parliament (Article 70). Accordingly, for a bill to become law, the identical text must be approved by both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The law-making procedure is thus divided into several successive stages:

  • introduction of bill (legislative initiative)
  • approval by the House, before which it is presented first
  • transmission of the text to the other House and its approval in the same form or with amendments. Possible "shuttle" from one House to the other of a text amended several times, until such time as it is approved by both the Chamber and the Senate in exactly the same form (so-called navette)
  • promulgation by the President of the Republic (who has the power to refer back bills to Parliament for reconsideration), publication in the Official Journal and entering into force.

As far as consideration and approval by the Chamber are concerned, the ordinary procedure consists of the following stages:

  • a bill composed of one or more articles and preceded by an explanatory memorandum may be introduced by the Government, individual Deputies, the people (50,000 citizens with the right to vote), the National Council for Economy and Labour (CNEL) and the Regional Councils. In the Chamber government bills are known as 'disegni di legge', while all the others are called 'proposte di legge';
  • the bill is first entrusted to the Parliamentary Committee having the task of making a preliminary consideration and assessment and of preparing a text to be discussed on the Floor of the House (known as Committee acting in a reporting capacity for this reason).

During its preliminary activities, the Committee may decide to deal with two or more bills (said to be coupled) in order to make a single report and submit a single text to the Floor of the House. To this end it may select one of the bills as the basic text to be discussed and proceed, also by appointing a sub-committee, to merge the various bills.

In the course of its examination the Committee may hear other Committees acting in an advisory capacity to express opinions and make suggestions on those parts of the bill for which they are competent.
In the course of examination by the relevant reporting Committee, changes (amendments) may be proposed, which the Committee discusses.

Any opinions and information deemed necessary are acquired also by means of hearings of experts and officials and the government participates in the preliminary study and drafting of the bill. When it has finished its work, the Committee appoints a rapporteur to prepare the report for the Floor of the House containing the text drafted by the Committee to which also minority reports may be attached drafted by Deputies who do not agree with the results by the Committee. Debate in the House is preceded by the establishment of a Committee of Nine composed of the rapporteurs and the Group representatives of the reporting Committee.

The debate on the Floor of the House begins with the rapporteur's presentation, the addresses by the Government representative and those of the Deputies who express the position of the various Groups on the general policy expressed in the bill. Then the individual articles of the bill are examined, and the amendments presented to the text drafted by the Committee are put to the vote. In the final phase, after any motions (documents laying down guidelines for the Government concerning the implementation of the future law) have been considered and after the explanations of vote have been delivered, the next step in the procedure is the approval of the bill as a whole.

Besides the ordinary procedure (which is obligatory for certain types of laws envisaged in the Constitution and in the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber) there are also two alternative, and shorter procedures:

The consideration and approval of a bill by a Committee acting in a legislative capacity

A Committee acting in a legislative capacity has the task of considering and definitively approving a bill. The bill, however, is resubmitted to the Floor of the House if a demand to this effect is made by the Government, one tenth of the Deputies or one fifth of the members of the Committee.

The consideration of a bill by a Committee acting in a drafting capacity

A Committee acting in a drafting capacity has the specific task of preparing the text of a bill on behalf of the Floor of the House, which may vote only on the articles of the bill and on the motion for final approval, but may not amend it.

Once both Houses of Parliament have approved the exact same wording, the bill must be promulgated by the President of the Republic (who, however, has the right to return the bill to Parliament and demand its re-examination with a message stating his or her motivations). A presidential refusal re-opens the legislative process and if the law is once again approved, it must be promulgated.

After promulgation the law is made public. Publication of the law is the task of the Ministry of Justice. Technically this entails including the text in the official collection of legislative acts of the Italian Republic and its publication in the Official Journal of the Italian Republic. The law comes into effect, and is therefore compulsory for everyone, on the fifteenth day after its publication in the Official Journal (vacatio legis) unless a longer or shorter term is provided for in the Law itself. The date of the Law is that of its promulgation and its number that of its inclusion in the official collection of laws.

The procedure followed for considering bills adopted by the Senate is the same as for those that begin their passage in the Chamber. The text is therefore printed like any other bill and referred to a Committee. It will then pass through all the stages of the above procedures.

However, in the case of a bill already approved by the Chamber and that has returned to the Chamber because the Senate has made some amendments, the Chamber will examine only the amended parts. In the Italian system of perfect bicameralism, this shuttling between Chamber and Senate continues until such time as the two Houses of Parliament agree to approve two perfectly identical texts.