(1)Introduction of Bills
The legislative right is the prerogative of the Diet and no legislation may be introduced except by and in the Diet. In initiating bills, the members of the House of Representatives and those of the House of Councillors have entirely equal rights, even in the case of a bill affecting the budget. A member initiating a bill should draft a statement outlining the reasons behind the bill and present that to the speaker or the president of the house to which he or she belongs. The prime minister submits bills to the Diet on behalf of the Cabinet. Since the opening of the National Diet, the number of bills introduced by the Cabinet has been far in excess of the number introduced by individual members of either house. Bills affecting the budget and certain other important bills and treaties are usually submitted to the House of Representatives first. A committee, standing or special, may also submit a bill concerning matters under its jurisdiction.
Bills can be presented at any time when the Diet is in session. When a member initiates a bill, he or she must have the support of 20 or more members of the House of Representatives and 10 or more members of the House of Councillors; in the case of a bill affecting the budget, the member must secure the support of 50 or more members of the House of Representatives and 20 or more members of the House of Councillors. A member may initiate a bill alone or together with other members. Initiation of legislation can be effected in cooperation with members of the ruling party or parties, members of the pro-government party or parties, or members of one or more of the parties in opposition.
With regard to amendments to the Constitution, they must be submitted to a national referendum after they have cleared the Diet by a vote of two-thirds or more of all members of each house.
(2)The Committee Stage
When a bill is introduced in the House of Representatives, the speaker refers it to the committee under whose jurisdiction it falls. When the initiator of a bill wishes to have its examination by committee dispensed with, he or she applies to the speaker to that effect in writing at the time of presentation, and the speaker places the application on the order of the day for a decision by the house.
The work of committees in the Japanese parliamentary system is exhaustive, which often means prolonged detailed discussion in the house is not necessary. Most of the bills introduced in the house are immediately referred to one of the committees, which undertake the first stage of deliberation. The time taken to examine a bill in committee is generally much longer than that taken in a plenary sitting. The fate of a bill may be forecast at the committee stage. A committee may amend or shelve a bill. It may reject a bill, concluding that it is not worthy of submission to a plenary sitting (provided the bill is not one sent from the other house). Basically, the decision of a committee does not bind a plenary meeting. However, decisions reached at plenary sessions are usually the same as those reached in committee, since membership is constituted in proportion to the numerical strength of the political parties and groups in the house.
Upon the completion of the committee examination of a bill, a report is made to the speaker. Upon presentation of the committee report, the speaker puts the bill on the order of the day of a plenary sitting.
When a bill examined by a committee comes up for consideration in a plenary sitting of the house, the chairman of the committee first makes a report on the course of the committee's deliberation and the result. Questions regarding the bill may then be asked, and debate follows. With the close of the debate, the decision of the house is made by voting.
There is no difference in procedure between bills introduced by the Cabinet and those introduced by individual members of the house.
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