THE SENATE OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
I - COMPOSITION
30 senators elected by director vote,
one senator for each province and one senator for the national district.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Voting method: direct majority vote for a single candidate.
Term: : 4 years.
Most recent elections: 16 May 2002.
Eligibility : the person in question must be at least 25 years old, a Dominican citizen, hold civil and political rights, and must have been born in the district or must have resided uninterruptedly there for a period of 5 years.
Incompatibility : holders of public office.
Conditions for running : nomination by a political party recognised by the Central Electoral Junta.
III - SYSTEM OF SESSIONS
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
Two annual sessions, which begin on 27 February and 16 August respectively.
Each legislature sits for ninety days. Its term may be extended by up to 60 days.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
1) The two chambers meet in an extraordinary session when convened by the President of the Republic.
2) In addition, the Senate may be convened in an extraordinary session by its President, or at the request of its members.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER
AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
The country's Congress is comprised of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
Two equal chambers.
1) Power to introduce legislation
Yes, in all areas, as is the case with the deputies and the President of the Republic.
Supreme Court judges have the right to introduce judicial legislation, while members of the Electoral Junta have the right to introduce electoral legislation.
2) Right of amendment
The Senate of the Dominican Republic possesses the right of amendment.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Ordinary procedure
Bills are introduced in either chamber.
Any bill introduced in one of the chambers is submitted to two different discussions, and there must be an interval of at least one day between each discussion, except if a declaration of emergency has already been made beforehand (in which case the text is examined at two consecutive sessions).
The author of a bill can defend it in the other chamber of Parliament.
Once adopted, the text is submitted to the other assembly, where it is examined based on the same procedure. If amendments are adopted, the bill is sent, with modifications, to the assembly that first examined it. If the latter adopts the modifications, the law is sent for promulgation to the President of the Republic. If it rejects them, the text is considered to be rejected.
Bills rejected by one of the chambers can only be reintroduced at the next legislature.
The Senate's decisions must be approved by an absolute majority of voters, except if a declaration of emergency has already been made beforehand (in which case a two-thirds majority of voters is required at the time of the second reading).
b) Specific public finance provisions
Specific majority conditions are required for finance laws or laws that have an impact on public finances: provisions or amendments must be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the members of each assembly.
c) Request for new deliberations
The President of the Republic may ask the chamber that last examined the bill to re-deliberate on the bill.
However, the law is considered to be definitive if the two chambers of the Parliament re-adopt it based on a two-thirds majority of the members of each of the chambers.
If necessary, the session may be extended until the final examination of the text.
B - SUPERVISORY POWER
The Senate is entitled to question ministers (secretaries of State), directors or administrators of autonomous State entities on matters for which they are competent, based on a decision of two-thirds of the members present, on a proposal by one of the members.
2) Approval of the execution of the budget
At the beginning of each session, on 27 February, the President of the Republic makes a speech about the previous year's events. The reports of the secretaries of State and that of the National Audit Office are then filed for their approval by the Parliament. The Parliament expresses its opinion on the detail report drafted in each assembly by the budget committee.
V - SPECIFIC PROVISIONS
A - AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION
The filing of a bill amending the Constitution can be introduced by one-third of the members of either of the two chambers of Parliament.
Amendments to the Constitution must be adopted by a two-thirds majority in order to be valid.
The government's republican, civil, democratic and representative aspects cannot be amended in any way.
B - ELECTION OF THE PRESIDIUM
On 16 August each year the Senate elects its Presidium (a President, Vice President and two Secretaries).
C - MEETING OF PARLIAMENT IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate meet in the National Assembly whenever stipulated by the Constitution.
In order to be valid, at least half of the members of each of the chambers must be present and the decisions must be taken based on an absolute majority of the votes.
When the chambers meet in the National Assembly or in a joint meeting, the President of the Senate acts as President, while the President of the Chamber of Deputies acts as Vice President.
This is the case for the reading of the President of the Republic's message, to hear the sermon of loyalty of the newly elected President of the Republic, or to receive his resignation. The two chambers may meet together to listen to the annual message of the President of the Republic.
Before taking office, the President and the Vice President of the Republic take oaths before the National assembly (Senate and Chamber of Deputies).
E - JUDICIAL POWERS
The Senate judges accusations made by the Chamber of Deputies (indictment decided by a vote of three-quarters of the deputies) against civil servants, for improper conduct or serious negligence in the exercise of their functions.
The only punishment that the Senate can impose (vote of three-quarters of the members of the Senate) is dismissal.
F - SUPREME COURT
The President of the Senate is a member of the Supreme Court of Justice, as is a senator from the Senate opposition.
The Supreme Court is referred criminal indictments against members of Parliament, ministers or the President of the Republic.
G - MARTIAL LAW AND STATE OF EMERGENCY
Parliament has the power to declare martial law in the event of war or public calamity, and may also declare a state of emergency if there is a serious and imminent danger to national sovereignty.
H - POWERS TO APPOINT
The Senate :
- approves the nomination of the members of the diplomatic corps;
- elects the President and the members of the Central Electoral Junta, as well as their replacements;
- elects the members of the National Audit Office.