THE JAMAICAN SENATE
I - COMPOSITION
21 senators appointed by the Governor general:
- 13 appointed on advice of prime minister,
- 8 on advice of leader of the opposition.
II - SYSTEM OF APPOINTMENT
Term of office: 5 years.
Last reappointed: 10 October 2002.
Eligibility: 21 years, Jamaican or British Commonwealth citizen permanently resident in the country during the twelve months prior to appointment.
Ineligibility: allegiance to a foreign state, undischarged bankruptcy.
Incompatibility: civil servants, judges of highest court, government contractors, members of defence forces (conversely, ministers are chosen from among members of parliament and include at least two or three senators along with a maximum of three parliamentary secretaries (secretaries of state).
The Supreme Court is the judge of disputes; appeals are heard by the Court of Appeals.
The members of the senate are appointed, at the latest, three months after dissolution of the Parliament following a vote of no confidence or after legislative elections.
III - PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS
A - ORDINARY SESSION
The Governor general sets the dates of opening and closing of each parliamentary session.
The Senate must sit for at least six consecutive months.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
In matters of special urgency, and at the prime minister's initiative, the Governor general may convene an extraordinary session of Parliament.
C - LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The legislative session commences at the latest one month after the parliamentary elections.
D - ADJOURNMENT
Public sessions are adjourned where a quorum of eight senators (not including the president of the house) is not reached.
E - A standing committee, the General Commission of the House, exists.
IV - RELATIONS WITH OTHER HOUSE
AND EXECUTIVE POWER
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
General limitations on legislative powers of the Senate:
1) Powers to initiate legislation
Members of Parliament (House of Representatives and Senate) have the right to propose legislation. However this right is -- save at the Government's recommendation -- subject to limitations, notably in terms of fiscal and monetary policy (new taxation or increases in taxation, increase in public spending or national debt).
All parliamentarians may table legislative proposals and request readings of bills.
2) Powers of amendment
Yes. However this right is -- save at the Government's recommendation -- subject to limitations, notably in terms of fiscal and monetary policy (new taxation or increases in taxation, increase in public spending or national debt).
Draft legislation or updates to the text of legislation are not considered as amendments.
3) Legislative procedure
Bills may be submitted before either house, save in the case of finance bills which must be submitted before the House of Representatives.
a) Ordinary procedure
Bills must be examined by both assemblies.
Before transmitting a bill to the Senate, the House of Representatives may propose amendments which are considered as adopted and approved by the House of Representatives if they have been accepted by the Senate.
Where a bill has been adopted by the House of Representatives twice in the same session and sent before the Senate at least seven months prior to the end of the session (first proposal) and at least one month prior to the end of the session (second proposal), and is successively rejected by the Senate,
or, where it has been dismissed by the Senate after two successive sessions while on each occasion the bill was submitted before the senate at least one month before the end of the session and where the second reading took place at least six months after the first,
the bill is nevertheless transmitted to the Governor general for promulgation, unless the House of Representatives has voted otherwise.
Notwithstanding this, the definitive bill must include the amendments adopted by the Senate and approved by the House of Representatives.
Conversely, a bill is deemed to have been rejected by the Senate where:
- the Senate fails to adopt the bill in its original form within a period of one month of it having been submitted, or
- the bill has been adopted with amendments that are not approved by the House of Representatives.
These provisions do not apply to certain laws which, as required by the Constitution, must be voted under identical conditions by both houses (constitutional or electoral amendments).
After definitive adoption by the Parliament, laws are submitted to the Governor general for promulgation.
b) Specific provisions as regards fiscal policy
Where a finance bill (determined as such by the President of the House of Representatives upon its transmission to the Senate) has been submitted at least one month before the end of the session and is not adopted by the Senate within one month, the bill is presented before the Governor general, unless the House of Representatives has decided otherwise.
B - POWERS OF SCRUTINY
Application of laws
The Senate's approval is required for all «statutory instruments»: i.e. certain acts of law made by the Governor general or by a government minister (procedure for application of certain laws).
C - DISSOLUTION AND EXTENSION OF TERM OF PARLIAMENT
At the prime minister's advice, the Governor general may dissolve or extend the term of Parliament at any time.
The Parliament may also be dissolved in the event of a no-confidence vote against the Government (majority of votes at the House of Representatives).
In the event of war, the Parliament may be extended for a period of no more than two years.
V - SPECIAL PROVISIONS
A - CONSTITUTIONAL REVISIONS
A three-month interval must be observed between the presentation of a bill before the House of Representatives and the first reading of said bill, which, in turn, may take place over three months. In the case of amendments to certain constitutional provisions, a referendum must be organised within two and six months of the amendment's approval by a qualified majority in both houses.
B - PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
The President of the Senate is elected with each new legislative term. He or she may not be a minister or secretary of state.
Outside of constitutional amendments, the President does not take part in voting, but has a tie-breaking vote for the final reading of legislative bills.
C - STATE OF EMERGENCY
The Parliament may vote a resolution declaring a state of emergency (majority vote of members of both houses); (renewable after 12 months or after one to twelve months where resolution has been proposed by Governor general).
D - The Governor general appoints a secretary and deputy secretary of the Senate at the proposal of the Civil Service Commission, which is made up of the President of the Senate and the Finance Minister.