As a constitutional monarchy, the key institutions in the Netherland’s legislative process are the Upper House (Senate) of the Parliament, with 75 members elected by the 12 provinces, and the Lower House (House of Representatives) with 150 directly elected members. Elections for both Houses take place at least every four years. Senate elections last took place in 2011 and the next is planned for 2015. The last election for the House of Representatives was held in 2012 and the next is expected to take place in 2016. Besides the national government, the provinces and 441 municipalities are also major actors, particularly in implementing the outcomes of the legislative process.
Legislation can be introduced by one or more members of the government or one or more members of the Lower House. Draft laws (bills) usually originate from recommendations either by a royal commission or a parliamentary committee. Once the preparatory work is completed by one or more ministries, the bill is discussed in the Cabinet. If accepted, it is sent to the Monarch’s secretariat, in their capacity as Head of State. From there the bill is sent to the Council of State (of which the Monarch is the President) for advice. This body chiefly pays attention to the legal quality of the bill and generally does not concern itself with political merit. Its report is sent directly to the relevant Minister(s) who, in turn, must respond with a more detailed report to the Monarch. The bill is then presented to the Lower House, which consigns the bill to a committee, where it is discussed and potentially amended, before being debated in plenary and then passed to the Upper House. The Upper House has no right of amendment; it must either accept or reject the bill. Once the Monarch and Minister(s) responsible have signed the Act, it is published in the Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees. Unless the Act decrees otherwise, it comes into force on the first day of the second calendar month following its date of publication.