Knesset Breaks Record for Private Member Bills

The number of private members' bills submitted during the current Knesset has set an all-time high of 4,017 - an average of 138 bills per month. The load creates a heavy burden that Speaker Dalia Itzik calls "disrespect for legislation." She says she will propose a limit on the number of bills each MK can present.

MKs, for their part, say private members' bills are their most useful tool for influencing the cabinet.

The current Knesset submitted 27 percent more bills than the previous one, and 10 times more than the 10th Knesset, which sat from 1981 to 1984.

The data - updated to September this year - appeared in a document sent to participants in talks between the Knesset and cabinet.

Only 28 percent of private members' bills received a preliminary reading in the current Knesset. In other words, the legislature considers around three out of four bills "declarative" - they are considered more of a statement to the media than a serious bill. Only 182 bills, or 4.5 percent, were voted into law.

A number of lawmakers might sign such a bill before it is submitted, producing up to thousands of signatures all told. According to the Knesset Web site, Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On submitted or signed 271 bills since the beginning of the current term.

The Knesset's legal department has to formulate more than 1,500 bills a year, and government officials must discuss them and draft an opinion on dozens of bills a week before they are debated in the ministerial committee for legislation and are voted on by the plenum.

The heavy load means that many bills are held over for the next Knesset or duplicated by other members.

Even though MKs often favor private members' bills, in talks with the cabinet last year, several senior lawmakers supported limiting private members' legislation.

In exchange for agreeing to Itzik's idea of limiting the number of bills each MK can submit, Knesset secretary Eyal Yinon said the legislature will ask the cabinet for concessions including a way to coordinate bills with the cabinet to avoid arbitrary opposition by the ministerial committee on legislation.