President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s request for the return of the Legislature to enact several bills in order to keep the economy on an even keel may not be possible as reports reaching the Daily Observer say the Senate is yet to obtain the required signatures to concur with the House of Representatives to produce a “Receipt of Certificate for Extension” to legitimize their second extraordinary session.
For the past two days, the chambers of both Houses have remained empty with the Senators in smaller groups holding secret meetings, while a few of the Representatives were seen in their offices doing absolutely nothing.
According to reports, the Representatives, although they were reportedly doing nothing, had two days of lobbying and gathered over 19 signatures which constitute one quarter of the required number in accordance with the Constitution.
Article 32b of the 1986 Constitution states, “The President 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 or extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern.”
The persistent delay of the Senate to concur with the House of Representatives to acquire the signatures of at least eight Senators means that there will be no ‘Receipt of Certificate of Extension’ to allow the President to issue a proclamation to legitimize their stay.
Legal minds on Capitol Hill are arguing that even if the Legislature does not produce a Receipt of Certificate of Extension, Article 32b also gives the President the authority to use her ‘Executive Power’ to issue a proclamation without a certificate, but will compel and legitimize an extraordinary session.
However, there has been no official reason for the failure of the Senate to sign the Receipt of Certificate and unconfirmed reports in the corridors of the Legislature say the Senators’ refusal to sign is owing to dissatisfaction over their ‘just benefits’ from the President.
Traditionally, lawmakers are paid their monthly salaries, allowances, and other benefits as per the months they work and receive their monthly benefits if they work for 15 days.
Constitutionally the Legislature goes for an annual agricultural break at the end of August or early September, but this year, they were asked by the President to stay up to October 15 for the first extraordinary session wherein they were given two months benefits.
Accordingly, at this second extraordinary session the lawmakers are expected to cut short their constituency (agricultural) break for the second time, and their return to Capitol Hill is expected to address several proposed legislations that are relevant to the country’s economy.
Some of the bills to be addressed, according to our sources, include the ratification of four oil blocks, proposals from the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) as well as the Land Act.
It may be recalled that on November 9, President Sirleaf wrote House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, and Senate President Pro Tempore, Armah Z. Jallah, urging for additional stay by the Lawmakers to conclude several bills and other matters important to keeping the economy stable.
The President’s letter was written 25 days later as a ‘follow-up’ to her appeal after a decisive and secret meeting with the Legislature’s leadership on Wednesday, October 14, in the House’s first floor conference room.