THE FIRST CHAMBER OF THE STATES GENERAL OF NETHERLANDS
I - COMPOSITION
75 senators elected by the members of the Regional Councils.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Ballot method :
Term of office : 4 years (unless aligned with a change in the length of term for the Regional Councils).
Last renewed : May 26th 2003.
Age at which allowed to stand for election : 18.
The First Chamber is judge of the election of its members.
Incompatibility between parliamentary office and the function of minister or secretary of State.
III - SESSIONS SYSTEM
One annual session which opens on the third Tuesday in September, the day of the Crown Speech.
IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER
AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
N.B.: The Parliament (States-General, or Staten-Generaal) is the union of both chambers. Congress is presided by the President of the First Chamber (the second highest official of the State after the Queen).
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
1) Legislative initiative
2) Right to amendment
3) Legislative procedure
Bills must first be examined by the Second Chamber which sends the First Chamber the bills that it has adopted or decided to present.
The First Chamber may only accept or totally dismiss a bill. There is no dialogue (or shuttle procedure) between the two chambers, and there is no conciliation procedure.
B - CONTROLLING POWER
1) Government policy is announced each year by the King or in the King's name before a joint session of the Parliament.
2) The members of the First Chamber are entitled to obtain any information whose communication is not judged to be contrary to the national interest in writing or orally.
3) Right to investigation, in the same way as the Second Chamber and the Parliament united in Congress, through committees created for specific purposes:
The committees have the right to hear people speak under oath and to oblige them to supply all the information requested.
4) The income and expenses of the State have to communicated to the Parliament. The accounts as approved by the Court of Audit are communicated to the Parliament.
5) In international matters, the approval of the Parliament is required for the ratification or the dismissal of treaties, unless otherwise specified by law.
When a treaty includes articles that are in disagreement with the Constitution or require the Constitution to be violated, the approval of the Houses requires a majority of at least two-thirds of those who voted.
C - DISSOLUTION
The First Chamber (and the Second Chamber) may only be dissolved by royal decree.
D - THE MONARCHY
1) The King or the King's heir must request authorisation through a law voted by the Parliament united in Congress in order to marry.
2) The law decides whether a person who is hereditary successor should be excluded. This law has to be adopted by at least a two-thirds majority of those who voted during a Congress of Parliament.
3) If there is no heir to the Throne, the law may nominate a Regent.
After a bill is presented by the King or in the King's name, the Houses are dissolved. The new Houses united in Congress examine the bill that they can only adopt with at least a two-thirds majority of votes.
The same procedure applies if there is no successor when the King dies or abdicates.
4) The guardianship of an underage King is regulated by the law adopted by the Parliament united in Congress, also competent to nominate the Regent and rule on the Regency.
5) The incapacity of the King to exercise his functions is declared by the Parliament united in Congress, as is the end of this incapacity.
The same is true for the temporary abandonment (and the resumption) by the King of the exercise of his royal authority.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION
The Houses are dissolved after the publication of a revision project.
The newly elected Houses examine the bill that they can only adopt with at least a two-thirds majority of votes.
B - SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
1) State of war
The prior authorisation of the Parliament united in Congress is required to declare war and to declare a war ended unless it is impossible to consult the Parliament following a de facto war situation.
2) State of emergency
During the application of the state of emergency (curtailing certain constitutional rights in the interest of maintaining domestic or external security), each time it is judged necessary, the Parliament, united in Congress, decides whether the state is to be maintained.