Real Clear Israel Press Release: Knesset launches National Legislative Database

yuli edelstein

Photo: Yuli Edelstein GPO

Knesset launches ”National Legislative Database”; Speaker Edelstein: ”Another step in making parliament`s work transparent to the public”

Publicized: December 9, 2014

The Knesset on Tuesday presented to the public the National Legislative Database, the legislative database that took many months to finish and which will present information on the state`s laws.

Amongst other things, it is possible to learn from the database that there are 898 valid laws today. These laws have been ammended throughout the years more than 6,000 times. For the first time, the database will have links between original laws and their amendments over the years.

Every law will be presented on the website with all of the documentation related to the passing of the law, including the versions of the bill from the day it was put on the Knesset agenda until the day the law was passed in its third reading, something that has never been done before (right now the database has the preliminary version of the bills – only from the 18th Knesset); links to the protocols of the committee that prepared the law (right now the database only has the protocols of committee debates starting from the 17th Knesset and onwards); links to the debates in the Knesset Plenum before the first reading and the second and third reading for all of the bills, and for the preliminary readings for the private bills.

The National Legislative Database will allow for the reception of ongoing updates on the valid and invalid laws of the state and updated information on the laws that have been legislated recently and those that have been ammended.

The laws of the state have been published in an official gazette from the establishment of the state, but concentrated information on the laws was not held by any official agency, including the government and the Knesset. Until today, concentrated and related information about the laws was also not available and there was no way to see the different versions of the bill from the moment it was tabled in the Knesset, throughout all the changes made to it during the preparation process in the Knesset committees until its acceptance as a law in its second and third reading. The Knesset decided to take this job upon itself and will work to fill in the gaps.

Every law in the database has an ID with the name of the law, the date of the first publication of the law and its last amendment, the type of bill and a list of all the laws that have ammended it or that it has ammended. In every amendment there will be the following information: It`s name, a reference to the series where it was published., the dates on which it was debated in the plenum in its different readings, the committee which prepared it and a link to the documents themselves. Similarly, all of the versions of the bill will be available.

The creation of the database required the scanning and the collection of data and many other documents. In the coming months, the remaining links to the committee proocols that dealt with the laws will be gradually added.

Another new aspect of the database is the presentation of information on ordinances that were legislated by the Temporary State Council before the establishment of the first Knesset in 1949 and were published in the official gazette, and ordinances legislated during the period of the British Mandate and published in the official gazette of the mandatory period. Now, only the names are available, but soon, after scanning is finished, the ordinances themselves will be uploaded. In the future, the database will also contain relevant legislation from the Ottoman period.

The National Legislative Database will allow for a deep and historical point of view on Israeli law and the study of the laws that were legislated from the establishment of the state. It is possible to see the database of laws that were legislated by every Knesset, to learn much on the topics that were at the center of interest and policy and historical trends and to deeply study the important debates which formed the laws of the state as they are today.

The database includes one of the first bills ever to be passed into law in Israel – the bill which determined that the name of the city of Tel Aviv would be changed to ”Tel Aviv-Jaffa”. The Knesset protocols related to the bill shine a light on the reason for the change: The merging of the Jaffa and Tel Aviv municipalities and the aspiration to keep Jaffa on the list of Israeli cities, due to its rich history.

By exploring the database one can also learn that one of the first governmental bills was the ”Komemiyut Day Bill”, which determined that the ”holiday of the state” will be celebrated each year on the fifth day of Iyar. During a debate that was held before the first reading of the bill in the Knesset Plenum, MK Avraham Elmalich of the Sephardim and Oriental Communities list suggested that the name of the holiday be changed to ”Independence Day”. The minutes of the debate can also be found in the database.

One can also extract from the database information related to an argument that arose about whether the date of holidays should be determined according to the Hebrew or foreign calendars and who will determine that Independence Day is a national holiday – the Knesset or the Prime Minister. Eventually it was decided that the Knesset would have this authority.

Another law that was enacted by the 2nd Knesset is the Wildlife Protection Act (1955), whose purpose was to regularize hunting in Israel.

The database will be expanded in the future and will include the full text of the laws, including all of the amendments that have been made since the original laws were enacted. The Knesset is working to complete the necessary technological infrastructure and to gather the full texts of the laws, based on the infrastructure which already exists in the database.

Moreover, in the future the database will also include information and documents related to secondary legislation (such as ordinances), as well as links from the secondary legislation to the laws from which it was derived.

The Knesset urges the public to explore the database and use the information in it to learn about the laws of the state. The public is also encouraged to turn to the database staff with any suggestions or questions.

The project was launched with the cooperation and support of the Knesset`s Legal Department, Computerization and Technology Department, the Knesset Archive and the Knesset website`s staff. The Justice Ministry assisted in obtaining historic documents.

During the launch of the National Legislative Database, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said: ”This is a fantastic data-collection feat. We have created a new and impressive work tool for the general public and for all those who are interested in legislation and the Knesset`s work in general. This is another very significant step in making the Knesset`s work transparent to the public.”

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