<First step: The introduction of a bill
Legislation is the process of making laws. How is a law
created? Can I, as a normal citizen, simply write to the government and, for example, call for a law cutting the number of years I have to go to school? Of course, itís not as easy as that! There are precise rules for creating laws. It can sometimes take a rather long time and be rather complicated as well.
In Germany, only the federal government
, the Bundesrat or a group comprising several members of the Bundestag
are able to launch the introduction of a bill and thus take the first step towards establishing a law.
For example, if the federal government would like a new law introducing toll fees on motorways, it draws up a bill. It gives this bill to the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat gives its opinion and passes on the bill to the Bundestag for further discussion. If the Bundesrat would like a particular law to be made, it first gives the bill to the government, before it goes on to the Bundestag.
Individual citizens who think a new law is necessary cannot introduce a bill to the Bundestag on their own. They have to convince a member of the Bundestag that this law is necessary. This member then has to find other Bundestag members (at least 30 at present) who are prepared to join him or her in presenting this bill to the Bundestag for further discussion.Second step: The debate
Once a bill has been presented to the Bundestag, there are three debates on it. These debates are also called "readings". During the first reading, the bill is introduced and the members of parliament give their general opinions on it. Then the bill is passed on to a special Bundestag committee for more thorough examination. Here, details are discussed and expert opinions are heard. During the second reading in parliament, the committee members report on the results of their meetings and on what the experts have said about the new proposed law. They mostly also make suggestions for amendments.Third step: The passing of the resolution
During the third reading, there is more debate on the proposed law. The pros and cons are discussed; there may be further amendments. Then there is a final vote. If the majority
of the members present vote in favour of the proposed law, the law has been "passed". In special cases, however, a law needs the approval of more members of parliament. For example, a law that changes the constitution
needs two thirds of the Bundestag members to vote for it. Once the Bundestag has passed a law, it goes to the Bundesrat. The role of the Bundesrat here depends on whether the law is one requiring its consent ("Zustimmungsgesetz") , or whether it is one to which it may only lodge an objection ("Einspruchsgesetz").
In the first case, the laws become valid only when the Bundesrat approves them after they have received approval in the Bundestag. This includes all laws that specifically affect the competencies of the federal states
("Länder"). Laws that change the German constitution or involve treaties with other countries also fall into this category.
But what happens if the Bundesrat rejects a proposed law of this type? Has it failed once and for all? No. A new debate then begins in a so-
called mediation committee. This committee is made up of members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, who try and find a solution. This committee proposes further amendments to the Bundestag; these amendments are then subject to another vote. If no agreement can be reached on this type of law, it does not come into force.
In the case of all other laws, the Bundesrat can do no more than lodge an objection. It can only express its reservations about the law and say that it rejects it. If the Bundestag does lodge an objection, however, the law is only delayed. The Bundestag can still pass it in a new vote.Fourth Step: Signing and publication
If a law had been debated and passed as set out in the German constitution, it is signed by the chancellor
or the responsible minister
. Then the German president must also sign the law. The law is then published, or announced, in the Federal Law Gazette. Only after this does it come into force; the day on which this occurs is laid down in the law itself.
You can find more information on legislation procedures in our Lexicon under the entries Bundestag
Gerd Schneider/ Christiane Toyka-Seid