THE SENATE OF ITALY
Bicameral system where both chambers have equal powers.
A process of constitutional reform in a federal way is currently carried out.
The parliamentary stage of the revision ended with the adoption of the text on 16 November, 2005 by the Senate.
The draft was submitted to a referendum on June 26th, 2006, a part of which modified the bicameral system, with a federal Senate composed of 252 members and 42 regional delegates with no right of voting. The Senate then lost its general legislative power.
The referendum concluded that the project of constitutional reform was rejected.
I - COMPOSITION
A - 315 senators elected on a regional basis, in proportion to the population of each region which may not have less than 7 senators, except for Molise (2 senators) and Valle d'Aosta (1 senator).
B - Former Presidents of the Republic are senators by right and for life (currently 2).
The President of the Republic may appoint 5 deserving citizens as life members (there are currently 4 members appointed in this way),
making a total of 321 senators.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
A - METHOD OF VOTING
Direct universal suffrage.
Combined system :
- election by simple majority for 75 % of senators (232);
- election on a proportional basis for 25 % (83).
Age of eligibility : 40
B - Term of office : 5 years.
C - Most recent election : 13 May 2001.
D - The Senate is judge of the election of its members.
E - Compatibility between the office of senator and the function of minister.
III - ORGANISATION OF SESSIONS
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
2 ordinary sessions per year, which commence on the first working day of February and October.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
At the proposal of the President of the Senate (or the Chamber of Deputies), of the President of the Republic or of one third of the senators (or of the deputies).
When one of the chambers meets in an extraordinary session, the other one sits as of right.
C - In practice, the Senate sits the whole year round but stops work each year at Easter (for a week) and in August (4 to 5 weeks).
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
The powers of the Senate are identical to those of the Chamber of Deputies.
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
1) Right to propose legislation
The senators have this right in conjunction with the deputies, the Government and constitutionally designated bodies and institutions (notably regional councils or the National Council for Economy and Labour) as well as citizens (a minimum of 50,000 electors).
2) Right of amendment
3) Legislative procedure
a) Ordinary procedure
Discussed by either chamber in a first reading, any bill is first examined in committee and then by the full assembly.
There are emergency procedures.
b) Voting in committee
Voting on texts can be referred to standing and special committees, composed in proportion to the membership of parliamentary groups, except in constitutional and electoral matters and for bills that have to do with the delegation of legislative powers, with the authorisation to ratify international treaties, with the approval of budgets and of procedural laws and to the exclusion of bills for ratification of legislative decrees.
However, the bill may be returned to the chamber if the Government or one tenth of the senators or one fifth of the committee asks for it to be examined and voted on, or for final approval by registration of votes.
c) Amnesty and remission of sentence
These are granted by a law passed -by a vote on each article and a final vote- with a two-thirds majority of the members of each chamber.
B - SUPERVISORY POWERS
1) Right to inquiry
The Senate may appoint single chamber committees of inquiry on matters of public interest.
These committees have the same powers and the same limitations as the judiciary.
Two-chamber committees, composed of senators and deputies, are set up by an act.
2) Responsibility of the Government
The Senate may pass or reject a vote of confidence in the Government by a motion put forward and voted on by roll-call vote.
Each new government must receive a vote of confidence in both chambers within 10 days of its formation.
A contrary vote by either of the two chambers on a proposition by the Government does not inevitably lead to its resignation.
A motion of no confidence must be signed by at least one tenth of the members of the chamber, and this may only be the subject of procedure three days following its presentation.
3) Supervision by the Audit Office
The Audit Office informs the chambers directly of the result of its audits.
C - DISSOLUTION
The Senate can be dissolved by the President of the Republic, who may not exercise this power during the last six months of his term of office.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
A - CONSTITUENT POWERS
Constitutional laws are passed by each of the assemblies in two successive debates, within a period of at least three months, and they are approved by an absolute majority of the members of each chamber during the second debate.
Unless the law has then been approved, in the second round, by each of the two chambers with a two-thirds majority of their members, it may be submitted to a referendum when, within three months of its publication, this is requested by one fifth of the members of a chamber or by 500,000 electors or by 5 regional councils.
B - WITH REGARDS TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
1) Election of the President of the Republic
by parliament meeting in a joint sitting. Regional delegates also take part.
2) The President of the Senate carries out the functions of the President of the Republic in the interim in the event of the latter being prevented from doing so.
3) Impeachment of the President of the Republic by parliament meeting in a joint sitting, with an absolute majority of its members, in the case of high treason or offence against the Constitution.
C - INDICTMENT OF MINISTERS -by authorisation, or by the Senate of the Republic or by the Chamber of Deputies under conditions determined by the Constitution-, for crimes committed in the exercise of their duties.
D - APPOINTMENTS
1) Election -by parliament meeting in joint session- of one third of the members of the Superior Council of the Magistrature.
2) Appointment -by parliament meeting in joint session- of one third of the 15 judges of the Constitutional Court.
E - Authorisation of a declaration of war by the chambers which confer the necessary powers on the Government.
F - - IN REGIONAL MATTERS
1) Dissolution of a regional council, following the recommendation of a committee formed by deputies and senators.
2) When the Government considers that a regional law goes beyond the scope of activity of the region or runs counter to national interests or those of other regions, it may raise the problem in the chambers where appropriate.