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House of Assembly Coat of Arms

House of Assembly

Newfoundland and Labrador

How the House of Assembly Works

The House of Assembly is the focal point of the democratic process in our province. It is the elected body which approves legislation, and holds oversight of the government within provincial jurisdiction in accordance with the Constitution of Canada.

Structure

The Legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador is a single legislative Chamber (unicameral) which comprises the House of Assembly and the Lieutenant Governor. Prior to Confederation, Newfoundland's pParliament included an appointed Upper House known as the Legislative Council. The Newfoundland Act, which gave effect to the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada, provided that the Legislative Council be discontinued. Newfoundland and Labrador now has a representative Legislature similar to those of the other Canadian provinces and Territories.

The Chamber

The House of Assembly Chamber is located in the East Block of the Confederation Building Complex in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. The House has sat at this location since 1991. When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, gifts were given from other provinces including the Speaker's Chair, the mace and the Clerk's Table.

Video: Inside the Chamber

Presiding Officers & Parliamentary Officials

In addition to the Speaker, the other presiding Officers of the House of Assembly include the Deputy Speaker/Chair of Committees and the Deputy Chair of Committees.

The Officials seated at the centre table when the House is sitting are referred to as the Table Officers or Clerks-at-the-Table. They include the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant and the Law Clerk.

The Sergeant-at-Arms preserves order and maintains security in the galleries, corridors, and other areas within the parliamentary precinct. S(he) is responsible for safekeeping of the mace and leads the Speaker's parade, which signifies the ceremonial opening of each sitting day.

How Laws are Made

An idea to make a new law or to change an existing law starts out as a bill, which goes through the following stages to become a law:

Video: Business of the House of Assembly

Stages of a Bill

The process of a Bill becoming law comprises the following steps:

1. Notice:

Once a Bill has been drafted, the sponsoring Minister must give notice at a previous sitting of his or her intention to introduce the Bill. The title of the Bill and the name of the sponsoring Minister are then published in the Order Paper. The Bill may be introduced on a subsequent day during Routine Proceedings. No debate occurs at this stage.

2. First Reading:

At this stage, the Minister introduces the Bill to the House of Assembly. No debate or amendment is permitted at this stage. When a Bill is read a first time, it stands ordered for second reading at a subsequent sitting of the House. The Bill cannot be read a second time until it has been printed and copies have been provided to the Clerk of the House for distribution to all Members who can acquaint themselves with its content.

3. Second Reading:

Second reading is considered the most important stage in the passage of a Bill. The Minister introducing the Bill may give a brief explanation on its provisions. At this stage, the principle and object of the Bill are debated, and either accepted or rejected. Debate is general and addresses the Bill as a whole. Members must refrain from discussing the details of a Bill during the Second Reading debate.

If a Bill passes second reading in the House, it is referred for a more detailed study to the Committee of the Whole House, and may be referred to another standing or select Committee designated by the sponsor of the Bill. Amendments permissible at this stage are reasoned amendments, the hoist, and referral to Committee.

4. Committee:

When a Bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole, the House itself is the Committee. When the House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole, the Speaker leaves the chair and the Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chair of Committees acts as Chairperson. The Minister responsible for the Bill is the witness, and s(he) answers questions on the details of the Bill.

Members can speak on any clause of the Bill being studied, ask any number of questions;, and can propose amendments to any clauses of the Bill. Amendments in Committee must be in keeping with the principle of the Bill, as agreed to during second reading. After the Committee of the Whole has completed its consideration of the Bill, it orders that the Bill be reported to the House.

If the Bill is referred to a standing or select Committee of the House, the Committee can hold hearings or special meetings where people inside and outside government can make comments about the Bill. The Committee can also ask for government officials and experts/witnesses to answer questions. The Committee can suggest changes or amendments to the Bill when it gives its report to the House. Once a Committee reports the Bill back to the House, all Members can then debate it. At this point, those who were not part of the Committee that studied the Bill can suggest changes.

5. Third Reading:

Debate may occur again on the Bill at this stage, but rarely does. The motion at this stage is "that the Bill be now read a third time." As in second reading, the debate is confined to the contents of the Bill as a whole during third reading.

When a Bill has been read a third time, the further question is then put by the Speaker: "This Bill having had three separate readings, is it the pleasure of the House that it does now pass?" This is carried, and the Bill is then ready for Royal Assent. Amendments permissible during second reading are also allowable at this stage.

6. Royal Assent:

At this stage, the Bill is given to the Lieutenant Governor (or his/her appointed representative) for final approval. Normally a Bill comes into force on the day of Assent, unless otherwise provided in the Bill itself. Provision is sometimes made for the Bill to come into force on a certain day, or on a day fixed by Proclamation.