Thursday, June 21, the Saeima approves the amendments to the Law on Referendums and Initiation of Legislation in the third and final reading, which introduce changes to the regulations governing the method of initiating draft laws and Constitution amendments. Changes provide that starting for January 1, 2015, referendum initiators will need to collect 150 000 signatures on their own.
Amendments provide that the two stage signature collection process is no longer necessary; instead, referendum initiation will require signatures of one tenth of the population to be collected by a special initiative group. Signature collection procedure is expected to be simplified allowing it to be carried out electronically, as well as confirm their authenticity in local government institutions, Saeima Press Service reports.
«Deputies have been working on this draft law for a little over six months, carefully discussing it in detail on more than 20 meetings. Taking into account the opinions and experience of all people involved, we managed to sufficiently improve the initial contents of the draft law, as well as come to a compromise acceptable for all political powers represented in the Saeima,»- says Chairwoman of the Judicial Commission Ilma Cepane.
The wording of the Law developed by the Judicial Commission provides for the requirement that the handing in of a fully developed draft law or Constitution amendment project to the Central Election Commission (CEC) requires the signatures of no less than one tenth of the population. It is allowed to be handed in within 12 months since the day the project is registered in the CEC. Each individual voter signature is required to be certified within 12 months by a sworn notary, county or city Orphan’s Court or any other local government authority empowered to confirm the authenticity of the signature of the person.
The proposals by the commission offer ensuring data protection for voters’ personal information when gathering signatures electronically. Security will be ensured by using www.latvija.lv or any other direct connection system which the initiative group chooses to use for gathering signatures. The Cabinet of Ministers will be obligated to state security and technical requirements for direct connection systems, as well as requirements for the system itself.
Amendments also provide for the possibility for the initiative group to be a political party or union, or an association of voters consisting of no less than ten members.
In accordance with the proposed regulation, draft law or Constitution amendment projects are to be registered by the CEC. It is required to make its decision in 45 days – to register, or not to register projects, or to propose a term for the termination of the project’s possible deficiencies. The CEC will have the authority to decline the registration of certain projects, if the initiative group does not comply with some regulations, or, if the project the initiative group is trying to hand in has notable flaws. The decision of the CEC not to register any given projects can be challenged at the Senate of the Supreme Court, which will be obligated to voice its decision within one month.
Current regulation state that draft law initiation is organized in two stages. If less than 10 thousand signatures are collected in support of any given draft law in the first stage, then the CEC organizes the second stage of signature collection, which is financed by the government. If the draft law is supported by no less than one tenth of the country’s population, it is handed to the parliament for review. If the Saeima does not accept it without modifying its contents, a referendum is organized for the draft law.