Who Can Initiate Legislation?
There are many reasons why new laws are sought or changes in existing laws proposed: Whenever the Federal Government wishes to implement a project it has to create the necessary legal basis. The Members of Parliament are elected by virtue of a programme they wish to see realised and as representatives of interest groups, so they want to make sure that as many of their ideas as possible are translated into law.
Introducing New Rules
The impetus to pass a new law often comes from outside Parliament or the government: various organisations and initiatives address their proposals to politicians. EU Directives have to be implemented by Austrian laws. In some cases the Constitutional Court repeals a law so that a new law has to be passed.
The Source of Most Bills
The vast majority of bills and adopted texts come from the Federal Government. The Government wants to translate its programme into reality, and in so doing it relies on experts in the ministries who have the special knowledge it takes to prepare legislative proposals.
Many projects require intimate and detailed knowledge of a given – often highly specific - subject and the ability to foresee problems and the effects a given decision may have.
Politicians Have Ideas, Experts Implement Them
It is the job of politicians to come up with ideas and to take decisions, but preparing the legislative texts in detail is mostly the task of experts.
A Draft Is Circulated to Solicit Expert Opinions
The competent ministry formulates what is called a ministerial proposal, which is sent out to interested parties, entities likely to be affected and expert groups and at the same time published on this website.
The next step is an expert review, whereby interest groups, authorities and organisations can present their views and criticisms, all of which is also published on the internet.
The draft then goes to Parliament in the form of a Government Bill After the expert review the ministry may, but is not forced to, modify its draft. If the latter is approved by the Federal Government it is introduced in the National Council as a government bill.
Current government bills are also published on Parliament’s website.
Rarely: Five Members to Introduce One Bill
Five Members may jointly move a bill in a sitting of the National Council. Such bills, which must be presented in writing, are called private Members’ bills and are much rarer than government bills. Sometimes is it the government parties that introduce such motions because they feel the need to implement a bill rapidly without being delayed by a time-consuming expert review.
Frequently: Motions (for a Resolution) Addressed to the Government
In many cases Members of Parliament will adopt a motion for a resolution by which the government is called upon to prepare a legislative proposal. This is done when the preparation of the draft requires special expert knowledge. In such cases the Members will confine themselves to defining the main points to be covered by the law they are demanding.
National Council committees may introduce committee motions to be dealt with by the plenary, though not at will but only if their motion relates to a subject matter already under discussion in the committee.
The Federal Council
As a rule the Federal Council will deliberate on possible changes to a law that have been already adopted by the National Council.
Still, the Federal Council may also take action of its own accord and move Federal Council Bills with the support of one third of its Members or on the basis of a majority decision of the Federal Council.
The President of the Federal Council transmits Federal Council bills directly to the President of the National Council for further action.
The Voice of the People
The citizens, too, have the option to introduce bills by means of a popular initiative, which has to relate to a matter that can be settled by Federal legislation.
Clearly Set-Out Objective
A popular initiative may take the form of a bill, i.e. contain the concrete wording of a text to be adopted, but it is also sufficient if the movers’ concern is described in detail.
A popular initiative bearing the signatures of at least 100,000 persons entitled to vote or of one sixth of those entitled to vote three Federal Provinces has to be submitted to the National Council for deliberation.
Those interested will find information about current popular initiatives on the Parliamentary website.