Proposal Would Cap Number of Private Members' Bills

Two senior government officials have proposed revolutionizing the Knesset's work - capping the number of bills a Knesset member could submit at 10 per year.

The proposal, by cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel and Knesset secretary Eyal Yinon, is part of a comprehensive reform of cabinet-Knesset relations that the two are seeking to institute during the new Knesset, which takes office this Tuesday.

The proposal is the fruit of many months of dialogue with cabinet ministers, Knesset members and senior officials in both the executive and the legislature. It argues that in recent years, the government has lost its dominant position in the legislative process, in contrast to both the norm in other democracies and the norm in Israel until about 20 years ago. This has impacted negatively on the status and efficacy of both cabinet and Knesset, and generally undermined the government's ability to govern, the proposal said.

Today, there is no limit on how many bills an MK can propose, and the number of private members' bills has ballooned, from a monthly average of 75 in the 14th Knesset (1996-99) to 138 in the outgoing Knesset - an increase of more than 80 percent.

"There is widespread agreement among Knesset members that the current situation leads to contempt for their status and value and for the legislative process in general," the two men wrote. Moreover, it leads to "a great waste of resources by professionals in the Knesset and the government who deal with these bills."

During the last Knesset, 4,017 private members' bills were submitted. Had MKs been limited to 10 bills per year, as Yinon and Yehezkel propose, this number would have been cut almost in half, to 2,250, even in the unlikely event of every single MK using his full quota.

The proposal also includes several other reforms, ranging from dedicating one day a week of committee hearings to government bills, to requiring the government to explain its rejection of bills in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and enabling MKs to appeal such rejections.