Enacting new legislation takes time and
consists of several stages. Many
different actors are involved in the legislative process. Only once they have
all shared their views, and the National Council and the Council of States
agree on the wording of the law can the Federal Council bring the law into force. And, of course, only
once the People have given their approval.
It is the Federal Council or Parliament that gives the impetus (in the
form of a parliamentary initiative, a motion or a postulate) for a new law. The cantons may also request a new law (cantonal
The Federal Council instructs Department X to draw up a preliminary
draft for a law. All departments and federal offices are consulted on this
preliminary draft (office consultation procedure).
Department X submits the preliminary draft to the Federal Council, which
initiates the consultation procedure. The consultation procedure allows all
citizens, cantons, communes, political parties, federations, trade unions, associations,
churches and interest groups to comment on the preliminary draft.
Department X prepares the preliminary draft law and adapts it on the basis of the results of the consultation procedure. It then submits the bill to the Federal Council.
Federal Council Dispatch
The Federal Council examines the bill and sends it to Parliament.
Preliminary examination by the committee of the first chamber
The presidents of the National Council and the Council of States decide
whether the bill is dealt with first in the National Council or in the Council
of States. A committee of the first chamber discusses the text and submits a
proposal to its Council (first chamber).
Consultation in the first chamber (e.g. the National Council)
The first chamber has three options: it may consider the law to be superfluous and request that it not be considered; it can reject the text and instruct the Federal Council or the committee concerned to revise it; or it can discuss the law in detail and make a decision.
Preliminary examination by the committee of the second chamber
The committee of the second chamber discusses the text approved by the
first chamber and submits a proposal to its Council (second chamber).
Consultation in the second chamber (e.g. Council of States)
The second chamber has the same options as the first chamber: a decision not to consider the law, rejection of the text; or point by point deliberation before making a decision.
Resolution of differences in the first chamber
If the decisions of the National Council and the Council of States
differ, a procedure for the resolution of differences is initiated. The
committee of the first chamber makes a proposal to the first chamber.
Resolution of differences in the second chamber
After discussing and voting on this proposal, the preliminary
consultation committee of the second chamber addresses the remaining
differences and makes a proposal to the second chamber.
Conference of conciliation
In the event of unresolved differences between the National Council and
the Council of States after three rounds, a conference of conciliation is held.
The conference is composed of members of the preliminary consultation
committees who work together to find an agreement. The agreement is then
submitted to the first chamber, and then to the second chamber.
Final vote in the first and second chambers
The jointly reached agreement is put to a final vote in the National
Council and the Council of States. Parliament votes in favour of the new law.
The law adopted by Parliament is brought back to the People for a vote.
The People have the last word. If a referendum is not sought within 100 days, the Federal
Council may bring the law into force.
If a referendum is launched against the law, the law will be put to the
vote of the People.
Entry into force
If the majority of voters approve the new law, the Federal Council can
bring it into force.
Legislation: When speed is of the essence
“Federal acts whose entry into force cannot be delayed (emergency federal acts) may be declared urgent by an absolute majority of the members of each of the two Councils and be brought into force immediately. Such acts must be of limited duration”. That is the wording of Article 165 of the Federal Constitution. In certain cases, the people can vote on ‘emergency federal acts’ retrospectively.