Senior politicians have proposed a range of new bills in a bid to modernize Colombia’s poorly rated congress, reported local media Thursday.
Senate President Roy Barreras and President of the House of Representatives, Augusto Posada officially filed a package of four bills this week supposedly aimed at modernizing the nation’s congress.
The proposed reform would modify the Fifth Law of 1992, which regulates the functioning of congress.
A key point of the modernization project is to lengthen the terms for presidents of the Senate and the House. Under current Colombian law, both Barreras and Posada must leave their positions after one year. However, if the reform is successful, it is possible that the leaders of the Senate and House could have four-year terms in their respective posts. “This is an international practice that would give stability to the Congress,” claimed Posada.
Another topic up for debate, under the same modernization initiative, would all but eliminate secret ballots in congress. The only exceptions in this regard would be the election of the nation’s prosecutor general and comptroller, both of which have disciplinary jurisdiction over congressman.
The reformists have also advocated the use of the “empty chair”. This rule stipulates that if a congressman has to vacate his or her seat in the legislature, due to criminal investigations for example, their political party cannot fill the vacancy. Consequently, the political party in question would suffer a loss in voting power. A notable exception to the “empty chair” would be when a politician takes maternity leave.
The idea to create an entity responsible for the general management of congress has also been put forward. The new body would be, “technical and specialized in nature, equipped with legal status, autonomy, and administrative and financial independence,” according to newspaper El Espectador Thursday.