How are laws made?
There is a long process for making new laws. They begin as a bill, which is a draft of a proposed new law. Bills can be put to the House of Representatives by any MP whether or not the MP is a member of the Government. Parliament takes the bill, considers and debates it, then decides through several stages of voting whether the bill should become law. If the bill passes through all these stages, it becomes a new law – also called an Act of Parliament.
The process for making new laws includes an opportunity for the public to have some formal input. After the first reading of the Bill in Parliament, the bill is referred to a select committee, which will usually call for public submissions. See the question below for more information on making a submission to select committee.
You can see more detailed information about the legislative process on the Parliamentary website.
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Can I have a say in any of the bills?
If the bill passes a first reading in Parliament, it will usually be referred to a select committee for up to six months. Select committees are comprised of MPs from all political parties represented in Parliament; there are a number of them, each with a different subject area e.g. education and science, finance and expenditure.
A select committee will usually call for public submissions, hear evidence on those submissions, debate the evidence, and then report back to the House (Parliament) with its own recommendations. So this is a chance for the public to influence the final shape of new legislation.
You can make a submission online, by visiting the Parliamentary website to find the bill you are interested in and completing the online form. It's best to read their guide to writing submissions first.
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What is an Act?
Acts are laws which have been passed by Parliament. Before it is passed by Parliament it is called a Bill. Acts are also sometimes called legislation or statutes, and can be found online at the Legislation website and at your local library.
There are a number of different types of Acts, but the two main types are:
- Public Acts: apply to all of New Zealand
- Local Acts: affect specific areas of New Zealand.