Legislature Resumes Work Today

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CAPITOL BUILDING.jpg
The Liberian Capitol, seat of the National Legislature

Deputy Speaker Election to overshadow first day of sitting

Every August 30, the two chambers of the Legislature are scheduled to adjourn for annual constituency recess according to their rules in reference to Article 38 of the Constitution, which says: “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order…”

But the law says their recess can be suspended and regular session be extended by the President or themselves (lawmakers) according to Article 32, which happened during the 2nd and 3rd sessions, thereby causing them to adjourn on October 14, 2020.

Article 32 also commands lawmakers to reconvene or return from recess (break) the second working Monday in January of each year.

According to the proceedings on the House’s floor of newly elected lawmakers for a six-year-term, the House must choose its Speaker, Deputy Speaker and officers and adopt the chamber’s rules of procedure every six years.

The rules say the Speaker in consultation with the Deputy Speaker appoint committees, of which the Deputy Speaker serves as ex-officio on all committees.

However, with the vacancy of Deputy Speaker as a result of Bong County Representative Prince Moye’s ascension to the Senate in the past December 8 mid-term election, it is expected that the House of Representatives would follow its well-established routine to either have an election on its opening day or on the first day of regular session.

In case of the Deputy Speaker vacancy during the opening or the first regular day, the Speaker is obliged to notify the august body the empty seat of the Deputy Speaker for discussion and election by itemizing it on the agenda as part of the business of the proceedings of the day.

The major (main) proceedings of Tuesday’s agenda should include a call to order by the Speaker, roll call, a prayer led by the Chaplain, Remarks of the Speaker for the formal opening of Session, vacancy of Deputy Speaker, among others.

Pundits believe that delay in the election of the Deputy Speaker would affect the appointment of committees, which the Speaker cannot do in the absence of the Deputy Speaker.

It would also affect the Annual Message of the President because, according to the House’s rules, every committee is dissolved after three years and, in the absence of the Executive Committee, which supervises or coordinates the Annual Message, the Annual Message would arguably not be held.

The President, a visitor to the Legislature, is welcomed by the Executive Committee at the entry, but prior that, a special session is called to order and a motion for a special session for the President to deliver his legislative agenda put forth, and this is traditionally proffered by the Chairman on Executive Committee.

As the election for the Deputy Speaker heats up, five Representatives, including Representatives J. Fonati Koffa, Clarence Massaquoi, Moima Briggs-Mensah, Crayton O. Duncan, Rustolyn Suacoco Dennis and Samuel Kogar, have shown up for the post.

Flag Hoisting Preceedings and Lunch

In keeping with the normal proceedings of the Legislature, all sitting Senators and Representatives before the formal opening, will be led by the Vice President and President of the Senate, this time Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, and House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers, to assemble at the entrance of the Capitol today, January 11, by 10 a.m., to participate in the hoisting of the Flag of Liberia and those of the 15 counties.

After this ceremony, Senators and Representatives will march into their respective chambers for a formal opening program, and thereafter by noon, there will be a joint luncheon program, wherein the President, the Chief Justice, Cabinet and members of the Diplomatic corps, business and religious communities, including traditional leaders, are expected to attend.

President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Vice President Taylor and President Grorge M. Weah will make remarks.

The five certificated Senators-elect (and if there’s any certificated Representative-elect) will arrive at the entrance with their Certificates of Elections and Credentials to the Secretary of the Senate (or the Chief Clerk of the House) for onward transmission to the Committee on Rules, Order and Administration. The Senators-elect and Representatives-elect will only join the Sitting Senators or Representatives in the Rotunda for the joint indoor program and luncheon.

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