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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.