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Russia: Expansion of Right of Legislative Initiation Considered

(Feb. 13, 2013) On January 14, 2013, the legislative assembly of the province of Astrakhan in southern Russia submitted a proposal to the State Duma (lower house of the legislature) on expansion of the legislators’ right to initiate legislation. The proposal calls for members of the national legislature to be allowed to introduce bills in legislative assemblies of the provinces that they represent in the federal legislative body, the Federal Assembly. (Bill No. 204376-6 on Amending Article 6 of the Federal Law on Fundamental Principles of Legislative and Executive Authorities in the Constituent Components of the Russian Federation [in Russian], State Duma of the Russian Federation official website (last visited Feb. 12, 2013).)

Currently the right to initiate provincial laws is granted to members of provincial legislative assemblies, regional governors, and representatives of local self-governing bodies only. If a province decides to extend this right to other citizens, including federal legislators, it can do so by changing its own bylaws or constitution, without the passage of a federal law. The new bill would permit all members of both houses of the Federal Assembly to introduce bills in their provincial legislatures, without any changes to provincial bylaws or constitutions. (Id.)

The proposal implements an idea expressed by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his State of the Nation address to the legislature in December 2012. According to Putin, the new bill initiation procedure might enhance connections between federal legislators and the regions they represent. Reportedly because federal government institutions did not follow up on this presidential proposal, the provincial legislature of Astrakhan drafted its own version of the bill in a show of support for the President. (Ekaterina Vinokurova, More Laws in the Provinces [in Russian], (Jan. 14, 2013).)

As a rule, bills proposed to the Federal Assembly by the legislative assemblies of Russian Federation constituent components are not considered immediately unless the proposals coincide with the political interests of federal authorities or leading political figures. (Id.) In this case, the Council of the Duma took action on February 7, 2013, to include the bill in the Duma’s legislative agenda. (Information on Bills Under the State Duma’s Consideration [in Russian], State Duma of the Russian Federation official website (last visited Feb. 12, 2013).) In the view of one Russian political analyst, this measure is an “attempt by the Kremlin to soften growing tensions between federal and provincial elites and is aimed at increasing the role of regional elites through giving a a little more power to their representatives in the federal legislature, but not any powers that would make them really stronger.” (Vinokurova, supra.)