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Parliament

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Bills

The structure of the Federal Government corresponds to the most important areas of the state and society; thus there is always a ministry responsible for every major field (e.g. Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, or Federal Ministry of Health). Within the ministries, competencies for the countless individual items are grouped together in directorates-general, directorates and divisions. If a law is required in a particular field - in practice it is mostly a question of laws to amend existing legislation, known as amending legislation - the appropriate division is as a rule charged with drawing up a draft law.

Legislation may be prompted by many different factors. One important source is the Government’s programme presented at the beginning of every electoral term, which lists the Government’s main political projects for the next four years; as a result of this alone, the ministries are usually instructed to prepare laws in the relevant fields. However, the initiative may also be taken by the administration itself, for example if it becomes apparent that difficulties constantly arise in implementing a specific provision or if the cost involved is unexpectedly high. In such cases the La¨nder - which pursuant to Article 83 of the Basic Law are responsible for implementing federal laws - quite often approach the relevant ministry or, at political level, the Bundesrat, requesting amendments or submitting a fully formulated draft law. Amending legislation may also be prompted by the rulings handed down by the highest courts, either if a judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court has declared a provision to be incompatible with the constitution or if, for instance, it is apparent from judgments of the Federal Court of Justice that a specific provision continually gives rise to disputes, legal proceedings and conflicting decisions by the lower courts. Moreover, associations of trade and industry and interest groups assert their members’ need for amending legislation. Or it may be a petition submitted to the Petitions Committee which draws attention to the need for action. Local authority associations too quite often approach Parliament because they know from the cities, counties and municipalities which belong to them that a specific provision places a considerable burden on the finances of municipalities or causes the local authorities great administrative difficulties. Finally, as a result of the public discussion in the mass media, certain issues may appear to be increasingly problematic or ever more urgently to require legislation.

However, in line with the basic relationship outlined above between the parliamentary majority and the Government in a parliamentary system of government, the majority parliamentary groups in the Bundestag may themselves wish to amend a law and take a political decision to this effect. In such cases it is very rare for Members from these parliamentary groups and their staff to draft the bill themselves; instead, the Government, or rather the relevant ministry, is instructed to prepare a draft.

The heads of divisions in the ministries are specialists who are involved at all stages in the proceedings. They evaluate correspondence from citizens and organisations to the ministry, follow the rulings handed down by the courts and study specialist literature. They are in contact with colleagues responsible for the relevant area in Land ministries and local authorities and generally keep informed about developments in the field concerned. This means they have the specialist knowledge which enables them to carry out the task of drawing up a draft bill.

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