Although it has a huge to-do list, the Legislature – the House of Representatives and the Senate – has less than a week of working time left until its end.
The 53rd Legislature, which started in January 2012, will end on January 8, 2018. The House’s upcoming recess this election year is the final break for lawmakers who will not be reelected. The legislative break is in the House’s rules and regulations, with reliance on Article 38 of the Constitution, which states: “Each House shall adopt its own rules of procedure, enforce order… All rules adopted by the Legislature shall conform to the requirements of due process of law laid down in this Constitution.”
This week, which is the final business week for the August bodies, both Houses are under pressure to offload several legislation, known as landmark bills, including the Lands Right Act (LRA), Bill of Referendum and the Presidential Transition. The other bills include the Whistleblower and Witness Protection, the New Elections Law, the Amendment and Restatement of the Public Management Act (to manage and control public resources), and the Domestic Violence Act among others. Additionally, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf may come under increased pressure to win major legislative victories before the Legislature’s farewell break, which will formally be on Thursday, August 31.
Speculation in the corridors of the Legislature says both Houses are considering a possible extension for at least three weeks as a result of a request from President Sirleaf. It has not been established whether it would be formal.
Article 32(b) of the Constitution states “The President shall, on his own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern. When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the proclamation shall be issued not later than forty-eight hours after receipt of the certificate by the President.”
The Daily Observer has reliably learned that both Houses also face an increasing number of legislative distractions because of the elections campaign, especially in the House of Representatives, where most committee chairs and co-chairs are busy with district projects and campaign activities for their hopeful re-election. There is a big divide among members of some committees over certain provisions in several acts, resulting in the lack of the required signatures to recommend to plenary for passage.
Meanwhile, with House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay being vice standard bearer on the ticket of the ruling Unity Party (UP) and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, President of the Senate and UP standard bearer, there are signs that there would either be extra sessions besides the regular Tuesday and Thursday sessions, or an official extension.