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Law drafting

According to the Finnish Constitution legislative power is vested in Parliament, in conjunction with the President of the Republic. Legislative bills are drafted by the Government and prepared by the ministries. Draft bills emanate from the Ministry with responsibility for the matter in question. In Finland, there are 12 ministries and there is a tradition of substantial ministerial independence in law drafting.

The organisation of law drafting is also accomplished in a different way in different ministries, e.g. by law drafting departments or civil servants whose task is drafting. Projects of wider general significance are prepared in Committees with representatives from the various organs of government, political parties and other interest groups. The interest groups are also invited to comment upon draft legislation.

The Bills drafted in the Ministries are scrutinised by the Council of State in general session prior to their submission to Parliament. The most important duty of the Parliament is to pass legislation. A new act is adopted or an old amended on the basis of a governmental bill or of a motion submitted by a Representative.
After a preliminary debate the bill or motion is referred to a select committee, which thoroughly considers the matter and hears experts. The select committee drafts a report and the bill is returned to the plenary session of the Parliament for a first hearing. This hearing comprises a general discussion during which the Parliament may refer the bill to the Grand Committee. The contents of the bill are decided on in a detailed consideration. Then the Parliament either adopts or rejects the bill in a second hearing. An adopted act is submitted to the President for ratification. If the act is not ratified within three months, it is returned to the Parliament. If the Parliament does not change its opinion the act enters into force even without a presidential ratification.

An amendment of the Constitution proceeds as above until the end of the second hearing, when the Parliament decides to leave the amendment in abeyance until the next parliamentary elections. In the vote in the new Parliament two thirds of the Representatives have to support the amendment. The Constitution may also be amended by a single Parliament if the bill is declared urgent by a majority of five sixths.

The President of the Republic, the Government and a ministry may issue decrees pursuant to an act adopted by the Parliament.

In order to enable Parliament to participate in the preparation of European Union legislation while this can still affect the outcome, it is already in the drafting phase notified of new EU proposals and the pertinent positions taken by the Finnish government. This preliminary decision-making is delegated to Parliament’s Grand Committee.

Initiative

The legislative drafting process at a ministry begins by a legislative drafting initiative such as

  • statements in the Government Programme
  • statements of Parliament,
  • citizens’ initiatives,
  • Government draft budget necessitating legislative amendments,
  • the commencement of drafting of an EU instrument requiring national implementation,
  • judgments of the European Court of Justice or interpretations of the Commission,
  • initiatives of stakeholders or authorities responsible for implementation, or
  • the ministry’s own initiative on the basis of e.g. information compiled, studies or reports, or the monitoring of implementation and impacts

 

Further information

The Government Programme Citizens’ initiatives in Finland

1 Preliminary preparation

Preliminary preparation is the first step in the legislative drafting process. It involves the accumulation of information and insights on the objective or issue expressed in the legislative initiative, an evaluation of the need to launch a legislative project, and the planning of the objectives, brief and implementation of the upcoming project. The procedures and comprehensiveness of preliminary preparation depend on the scope of the matter at hand. Preliminary preparation may be accomplished as a part of the ministry’s ordinary official duties or a preparatory body may be appointed. Studies and reports may be commissioned for the purposes of accumulating information and evaluating the needs for amendment. Preliminary preparation concludes in the launch of a legislative project or a decision not to initiate legislative drafting.  

Further information

Ministries

2a Regulatory drafting - Official duties

Regulatory drafting is commonly the most labour-intensive step in legislative drafting. It begins with a mandate from the ministry for the legislative project and concludes with the completion of the draft Government bill. When regulatory drafting is carried out as a part of the ministry’s ordinary official duties, the mandate is given to the preparatory team.

During regulatory drafting, the matter at hand is expanded upon and examined in greater detail to build upon the information accumulated during regulatory drafting. Legal issues, including those relating to the Constitution and other legislation, are also reviewed. Studies or reports may be commissioned for drafting purposes. At this step, alternative solutions for the issues to be resolved are determined and the impacts of the alternatives are assessed.Stakeholder consultation takes place, and the knowledge base required for the preparation and the impact assessments is expanded.

The Preparatory team is responsible for the impact assessment of the proposed legislation. The assessment concerns the relevant economic impact, the impact on the public administration, the environmental impact and the societal impact. A follow-up of the effects of the implemented reform is also a part of the impact assessment procedure. The result of the assessment performed during the drafting should be written down in the legislative proposal.  Government draft proposals applicable to businesses or proposals that otherwise impact businesses are to be sent within the normal request for statements procedure to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy’s Registry with the heading ‘Assessment of the Impact on Businesses’. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy will issue a statement on the impact on businesses with which the draft can then be amended, if necessary. The statement will be issued on the basis of the checklist for impact identification.

During legislative drafting, the preparatory team also drafts the text and rationale for the legislation in the form of a draft Government bill. The contents of this draft, depending on the significance of the matter concerned, are determined by the Government, a Minister or the ministry’s senior officials.  

Further information

Constitution of Finland

Instructions for legislative drafting

2b Regulatory drafting - Preparatory body

Regulatory drafting is commonly the most labour-intensive step in legislative drafting. It begins with a mandate from the ministry for the legislative project and concludes with the completion of the draft Government bill. The mandate is given to a separate preparatory body when broader-based participation is warranted. The preparatory body can be e.g. a committee, a commission, an advisory board, or a working group and consist of stakeholders, representatives from other ministries, experts in the field question, and political decision-makers.

During regulatory drafting, the matter at hand is expanded upon and examined in greater detail to build upon the information accumulated during preliminary preparation. Legal issues, including those relating to the Constitution and other legislation, are also reviewed. Studies or reports may be commissioned for drafting purposes. At this step, alternative solutions for the issues to be resolved are determined and the impacts of the alternatives are assessed.Stakeholders not represented on the preparatory body are consulted. The knowledge base required for the preparation and the impact assessments is expanded as the work progresses.

The preparatory body is responsible for the impact assessment of the proposed legislation. The assessment concerns the relevant economic impact, the impact on the public administration, the environmental impact and the societal impact. A follow-up of the effects of the implemented reform is also a part of the impact assessment procedure. The result of the assessment performed during the drafting should be written down in the legislative proposal. Government draft proposals applicable to businesses or proposals that otherwise impact businesses are to be sent within the normal request for statements procedure to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy’s Registry with the heading ‘Assessment of the Impact on Businesses’. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy will issue a statement on the impact on businesses with which the draft can then be amended, if necessary. The statement will be issued on the basis of the checklist for impact identification.

During regulatory drafting, the secretary of the preparatory body drafts the text and rationale for the legislation in the form of a draft Government bill. The contents of this draft are determined by preparatory body under the leadership of its chairperson.  

Further information

Constitution of Finland

Instructions for legislative drafting

3 Consultation

After the regulatory drafting step, the draft Government bill is circulated to stakeholders for comments. This procedure is usually observed also when consultation of stakeholders has been a part of the preliminary preparation and regulatory drafting steps. The request for comments is submitted to all known key stakeholders and published to afford other interested parties with an opportunity to comment as well. The comments received are summarised and a report of the comments is compiled and published.

 

Further information

Consultation in legislative drafting: Guidelines

4 Continued drafting

The contents of the draft Government bill are determined on the basis of the feedback obtained during consultation. The necessary revisions are made to the draft, which is then translated into Swedish (Finland’s second official language), as statutes in both languages are considered original.

The Finnish and Swedish versions of the draft bill are submitted to the Unit of Legislative Inspection at the Ministry of Justice for checking that the proposals have been drafted in observance of the legislative drafting guidelines and that the two language versions are consistent. In the inspection, it is checked that the technical structure of the proposal is correct, the content of the proposal is consistent, and the proposal is in accordance with the general legal principles and other provisions on the same or similar matters. Special attention is also paid to the linguistic accuracy, comprehensibility, preciseness and consistency of the proposal. The observations made during inspection then form the basis for further revision of the texts.

Further information

Translation and terminology services

5 Review by the Government

The decision on submitting the Government bill to Parliament is taken by the Government in plenary session, prior to which any proposal with significant financial impacts is considered in the Cabinet Finance Committee. The proposal is presented to the Government by the ministry in charge of drafting.
Before a government plenary session, the matter may be discussed also in ministerial working groups, cabinet committees, informal evening meetings of the Government, and different political negotiations, in which the parliamentary groups representing the opposition may also participate.

The rapporteur in plenary session is a ministry official. Government decisions are reported on the Government website.

 

Further information

Facts about Government
Government Activities
Prime Minister Katainen’s Government

6 Parliamentary review

Each year, the Government submits 220-300 bills to the Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office prepares for the Parliament a semi-annual list of bills to be submitted during the forthcoming autumn or spring session. The primary purpose of the list is to enable the Parliament to plan its work.

In the Parliament, the bill and the accompanying document are subject to three levels of discussion and analysis. In a preliminary debate in a plenary session in the Parliament the minister in question presents the government proposal, after which the political groups and individual Members of Parliament express their opinions on the matter. In a detailed review by one of the standing committees, which may ask for statements from other committees, the discussion normally begins with the committee asking a representative of the ministry to present, as an expert, the proposal. The committee normally hears experts and interest groups during the evaluation of the bill. The Parliament, after having received the report of the responsible committee, decides in a plenary session on the detailed contents of the bill and on its approval.

During the parliamentary consideration of Government bills, the parliamentary Committees hear officials of the ministry responsible for drafting as well as other experts. Ministry officials also supply Parliament with additional information as required. The deliberations of Parliament are available for review on the Parliament website.

 

Further information

Legislative work of Parliament
Parliamentary Committees

7 Enactment

The decision to approve bills passed by Parliament is taken by the President of the Republic. The proponent minister presents the bill to the President of the Republic. If the President declines to approve the bill, it is returned for the reconsideration of the Parliament. If the Parliament then passes the bill again without amending its substantive content, it enters into force without the President’s approval. If the Parliament does not pass the bill, it is deemed to have lapsed. The decisions of the President of the Republic are reported on the Government website

Approved bills (acts) are published in the Statute Book of Finland. Acts enter into force after publication on the date laid down in the Act, or a separate decree is issued on subsequent entry into force. Current legislation is available for review in the electronic database of Finnish legislation (Finlex) .

 

Further information

Database of Finnish legislation (Finlex)
President of the Republic of Finland

Enforcement

Enforcement refers to the measures of government by which Acts are applied and put into practice. The ministry responsible for the drafting of the Act usually prepares an implementation plan during the principal preparation step in cooperation with the authorities responsible for implementation. Such authorities may include the agencies under the ministries, regional and local government, and the courts.

Factors which promote successful enforcement from the viewpoint of the authorities responsible for implementation include:

  • sufficient human resources, expertise, tools and other required resources,
  • effective and efficient cooperation with other authorities tasked with the same duties,
  • support and guidance from higher authorities without excessive interference in details or matters within the scope of competence of lower authorities, and
  • consultation during drafting of stakeholders affected by the legislation.

Tools available to the ministry responsible for drafting to support enforcement include the following:

  • decrees and regulations,
  • guidelines and recommendations,
  • communication and media relations,
  • training and counselling, and
  • incentives such as recognitions or rewards for good performance.

Monitoring

The implementation and impacts of legislation are monitored since entry into force. The aim of monitoring is to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation and any needs for its amendment. In the longer term, the data accumulated as part of the monitoring process serves as a basis for future legislative reform undertakings.

Legislation is monitored by the drafting ministry. The monitoring approach, laying out the areas of emphasis and required resources, is designed during preparation and briefly described in the rationale of the Government bill. Proper advance planning of the monitoring approach also helps determine the manners in which the impacts of the legislation are to be perceived in practice.

 

 

Monitoring tools include:

  • studies and reports,
  • statistics,
  • court decisions,
  • decisions and policies of administrative authorities,
  • consultations and discussions, and
  • surveys and other means of gathering feedback.

Monitoring of the implementation and impacts of legislation may be deemed to be adequate when it satisfies the following requirements:

  • systematic, timely and sufficiently comprehensive approach
  • findings compared to the objectives of the legislation and to the impacts envisioned during preparation, and
  • tools, methods and findings recorded in a manner allowing easy future reference.