A bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law. This proposal is presented before Parliament for debate.
Article 79 of the Constitution awards Parliament the authority to create new legislation, as well as amend existing laws and repeal old ones. New laws initially exist in the form of a Bill, a draft piece of proposed legislation presented to the House for discussion before it is passed into law.
The form, subject matter and publication of Bills are provided for in Rules 115 – 117 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
Types of Bills
- Government Bill – a government bill moved by a government Minister.
- Private Members Bill – a bill moved by a Member of Parliament.
Rule 127 strictly prohibits bills that derogate human rights and freedoms stipulated in the Constitution.
The process of passing the Bill
According to Rule 109, the Bill must be read three times before the house:
- The First Reading:
The Clerk reads the Short Title aloud. This serves as an introduction of the Bill.
The Bill is then sent to the appropriate committee who have 45 days to analyse and report findings to the House.
- The Second Reading:
The Vice President, Minister or Private Member in charge of the Bill move that it be read a second time.
The main principles, reasons and benefits of the bill as well as reviews of the most important clauses are outlined.
The House will then proceed to receive the committee report as well as the opposition response and the debate is opened. When the House accepts and adopts the committee report then the bill is considered read for the second time.
- Bills in Committee:
When a motion for a second reading is adopted, the house proceeds with the debate at the committee stage or fixes another date for discussion. The Bill is examined in detail, considering one clause or sub clause at a time, agreed to, amended or rejected based on the majority votes without altering the main principle of the bill.
Passing a Bill
Rule 21(1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament provides for the required quorum of parliament which is one third of all members of parliament entitled to vote.
When the committee of the whole house has concluded its deliberations, it will report to the House that the Committee has considered the Bill referred to it and agreed to the same with (or without) amendment and proceeds to the Third reading of the bill upon a motion.
The speaker will ask a question that the Bill be read the Third time. Parliament at the final stage, passes the bill as an Act of Parliament, it is then sent to the president for assent where it becomes an Act of Uganda.