House of Reps. Passes Only ‘15 Laws’ in 2018

Some believe that the low count of passed laws in the House of Representatives can be attributed to internal conflicts over the bid to dethrone Rep. Bhofal Chambers (pictured) from the Speakership

The House of Representatives has approved 15 laws (bills) during the 1st session of the 54th Legislature — a duration of 57 regular and six Special days sittings, respectively.

The first session of the 54th Legislature started on the second working Monday, January 15, and ended on Friday, August 31, 2018. In order to discuss and act upon matters of national concern and emergency, the Legislature extended its annual constituency break from Saturday, September 1 thru 15, 2018.

House Speaker Bhofal Chambers said the low number of laws passed by the House of Representatives in 2018 followed rigorous scrutiny of the proposed laws; but some political observers have commented that the unprecedented low number of laws passed is due to the high number of new lawmakers and the internal conflicts among them on the removal of Maryland County District # 2 Representative as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

According to research, in the 52nd Legislature, the House of Representatives enacted 194 laws in six sessions (2006 – 2011): 10 laws in 2006; 24 in 2007; 51 in 2008; 39 in 2009; 38 in 2010 and 20 in 2011.

It is  also suggested that the first low number of laws, passed by the House of Representatives from 2006 to 2007, was because of the unpleasant situation between the then-House Speaker Edwin Snowe and former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Speaker Snowe was removed in April 2007 and replaced with J. Alex Tyler, who was unanimously elected to take his place.

As of the 53rd Legislature, less than 40 laws were passed during 2012 and 2013; but in 2014 and 2015, 50 and 43 laws were approved by the House of Representatives, respectively.

In 2016, the House passed 79 laws, in the wake of removing former Speaker Tyler. But the Lower House saw the highest number of laws that were approved – a year which also saw an unprecedented two sessions and change of leadership.

For the electoral year of 2017, the record of the laws passed is yet to be released to the public. But it would seem that the division over former Speaker Tyler’s removal slowed down the work of the House of Representatives, particularly since the then outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued a proclamation extending the sixth and final sessions of the 53rd National Legislature by nine days beginning January 4th, 2018, to act upon 13 proposed laws.

President Sirleaf at the time said there were several unresolved key matters of national interest that required the urgent attention of the 53rd Legislature because of their importance to the enhancement of the socio-economic interests of the country.

The proclamation realized the limitation of time to discuss key matters that were important to the smooth transition from one democratically elected government to another that required the participation of the 53rd Legislature.

However, some of the 15 bills, which were approved by the House of Representatives, included the following: The Bill of Impeachment against Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh; the US$536.4m ETON Finance PTE Limited Loan Agreement; the US$420.8m Financing Agreement/Loan; the US$45.3m CLSG Interconnection Project Loan; and the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom to repeal some sections of the Penal Law of Liberia to decriminalize free speech.

Others are the Lands Right Act, a law that gives citizens more power to manage their land; the FY 2017/18 Recast Budget in the tone of US$536 million; the 2018/2019 FY Budget at US$570.148 million or its equivalent of L$84,333,327,390.40 billion; and the New Maritime Law, amending Title 21 of the Liberia Code of Laws revised, affecting Maritime contract and financing vessels’ mortgage; the Business Corporation Act (BCA), Chapter 1 on Associations Law of Liberia, Title 5, Liberian Code Laws relating to Bearer Shares which has to do with creating new Section 5.17, relating to the Custodialization of Bearer Shares or Dividends and an Act to Create the City of Vahun in Lofa County.

Forty-eight petitions are currently in Committees’ room and have been forwarded to the 2nd sitting of 2019. Meanwhile, Speaker Chambers has appointed a 15-person Special Committee to manage the House of Representatives in collaboration with the Leadership, during its annual closure from Friday, September 14, 2018, to Monday, January 14, 2019.

The 15-person Special Committee, comprising a member from each county, is responsible to manage and coordinate the affairs of the House of Representatives during the break and serves as a “management team” in consultation with the leadership headed by the Speaker.

Those on the Special Committee include Representatives Joseph Sowarbi (Nimba County); Francis Young (River Gee County); Lawrence Morris (Montserrado County); Mary Kawor (Grand Bassa County); Matthew Zarzar (Sinoe County); P. Mike Jurry (Maryland County); Emerson Kamara (Grand Cape Mount County); Joseph Papa Kolleh (Bong County); Alex Grant Gedeh County); Julia Wiah (Lofa County); Haja Siryon (Bomi County); Ivar Jones (Margibi County); Byron Zanweah (Rivercess County); Nathaniel Barway (Grand Kru County) and Joseph Matthew (Gbarpolu County).

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