THE SENATE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
I - COMPOSITION
31 senators nominated by the Head of State.
II - SYSTEM OF NOMINATION
Duration of mandate : 5 years.
Most recent elections : December 10th, 2001.
Eligibility for election: minimum age 25 years; citizenship of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ineligibility for election: foreign nationality; undischarged bankruptcy; mental illness; previous electoral offence; having received a death sentence or a prison sentence longer than 12 months.
Incompatibility: certain types of public office and any responsibility relating to the organisation of the elections are not compatible with election to the Senate (however, members of the Government are chosen from among the senators and members of the Chamber of Representatives).
The President and Vice-president of the Senate (elected during the first session of the new legislature) may not take on the duties of minister or parliamentary secretary.
Temporary senators may be nominated if a senatorial post is temporarily vacant due to illness, absence from Trinidad and Tobago, or suspension from post (during the period when an appeal against conviction is being made).
III - SESSIONS OF THE ASSEMBLY
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
The dates of opening and closing of the session are determined by proclamation by the President of the Republic.
Parliament must sit at least once a year, and must not be in continuous session for more than six months.
B - LEGAL SESSION
The Senate is required to sit in legal session within one month of the parliamentary elections.
C - ADJOURNMENT
The session must be adjourned if a quorum of 10 members is not reached (in the judgement of the president of the session).
IV - RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago is composed of the President (Head of State), the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives.
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
General restrictions on the legislative powers of the Senate.
1) Legislative initiative
Senators have the right to initiate legislation (as do the deputies).
This right is, however, limited with respect to bills concerning public finance, assessment or increase of taxes or other expenditure (according to the judgement of the president of the session) unless the Government agrees to these.
2) Right of amendment
Senators (and deputies) have the right of amendment, but this right is limited with regard to amendments involving public finance, assessment or increase of taxes or other expenditure (according to the judgement of the president of the session) unless the Government agrees to these.
The Attorney General is involved in the work of Parliament, and has the right of amendment, including the right of amendment in areas falling within the competence of the ministerial department of another minister. However, the right of amendment is also assigned to other ministers in areas falling within their sphere of competence.
3) Legislative Procedure
Bills may be tabled in either chamber, with the exception of bills on finance, which must be tabled in the Chamber of Representatives.
Bills must be debated by both chambers.
Bills must be passed by a majority of members in each assembly, voting in person. The president of the session has a casting vote when necessary.
a) Ordinary procedure
A legislative reform may be passed despite opposition from the Senate if it fulfils the following conditions: the bill must have been adopted by the Chamber of Representatives in two successive sessions and rejected by the Senate in both these sessions, when it has been referred to the Senate at least one month before the end of the session; a period of six months must have elapsed between each of the adoptions of the bill by the Chamber of Representatives.
However, before the second reading of the bill by the Senate, the Chamber of Representatives has the right to propose amendments to the Senate which, if they are then adopted by the Senate, will be considered as amendments from the Senate accepted by the Chamber of Representatives.
A bill is considered to have been rejected by the Senate either if it has not been adopted by the Senate or if it has been accompanied by amendments which the Chamber of Representatives has refused to accept.
A bill is enacted by the President of the Republic.
b) Specific provisions with regard to the budget
There are predetermined time limits for the adoption of the Finance bill by the Senate; when the bill has been adopted by the Chamber of Representatives and referred to the Senate at least one month before the end of the session, and the Senate has not adopted it without modification within one month of its reception, it may then be sent for signature by the President, unless the Chamber of Representatives decides otherwise.
B - POWER OF SUPERVISION
Right to information
The ministers or secretaries of State who are also senators or deputies shall continue to participate in the work of the Assembly to which they were elected: their presence can be required by the President of their respective Assemblies if they have to give explanations in their role as members of the Government, in an area falling within their competence and which is the subject of the current debate. However, they cannot be summoned by the other parliamentary chamber unless a motion is passed to this effect.
C - DISSOLUTION AND PROROGATION
The President of the Republic has the power to dissolve Parliament.
The Senate is dissolved at the same time as the Chamber of Representatives.
The President of the Republic has the power to prorogue [extend] the mandate of Parliament.
In the case of war, the term of the legislature may be extended by twelve months, renewable for up to five years.
V - SPECIFIC PROVISIONS
A - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION
Specific conditions are laid down with regard to the voting majority required for the revision of the Constitution: according to the relevant articles of the Constitution, this may occur only with a two-thirds majority vote, or a majority of three-quarters of the members of each assembly.
B - ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The President of the Chamber of Representatives is responsible for the presidential elections.
The President is elected by the members of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, who meet for this purpose as an electoral college
C - POWER OF JURISDICTION
The procedure for depriving the President of his mandate is initiated by a motion from the Chamber of Representatives, submitting this proposal for dismissal to investigation by a tribunal composed of the President of the Supreme Court and four other judges nominated by him.
The motion giving the reasons on which the proposal for dismissal is based must be adopted by at least 2/3 of the votes of the members of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, meeting in joint session.
The President of the Republic is deprived of his mandate by a resolution - based on the findings of the tribunal - and adopted by at least a two-thirds majority of the total number of members of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives.
In this situation, the President of the Senate will temporarily exercise the functions of the President.