One of the Riksdag's most important tasks is to decide on laws. Laws are rules that everyone in a country is obliged to follow. Legislation is a way of changing things in society. It is usually the Government that submits proposals for new laws. However, legislative proposals can also come from one or several members of the Riksdag. The members of the Riksdag debate and pass new laws and legislative amendments in the Chamber. The proposals normally come from the Government in the form of government bills. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand New laws can only be made by the Riksdag. A law that has been adopted can only be stopped or amended if the Riksdag passes a new law. A law may deal with anything from the penalty for shoplifting to the phasing out of a nuclear power station. The legislative process Proposals for new legislation, or amendments to existing laws, usually come from the Government in the form of a government bill. Members of the Riksdag can also submit proposals to the Riksdag. The members' proposals are known as private members' motions. After a proposal has been submitted, the Speaker informs the Chamber of this. The proposal is then forwarded to a parliamentary committee. The committee examines the proposal in greater detail and in turn submits a proposal on the decision it considers the Riksdag should take. A debate is then held in the Chamber, where members from the various parties represented in the Riksdag present their opinions on the committee's proposal for a decision by the Riksdag. The 349 members of the Riksdag then adopt a position on the committee's proposal for a decision. They can vote yes, no or abstain. For the proposal to be adopted, a majority of the members voting must say yes to the proposal. The Government can also adopt rules that everyone residing in Sweden must follow, without having to present a proposal to the Riksdag first. Such rules are known as ordinances. The Instrument of Government, which is one of Sweden's fundamental laws, sets out what must be decided by law and what can be decided in an ordinance. Sweden is a member of the European Union, the EU. As a result, the Riksdag is not the only body with the authority to decide what laws will apply in Sweden. It shares this task with the EU. Works with EU-related matters Commissions of inquiry Before the Government submits a proposal for a new law to the Riksdag it may need to examine the various alternatives available. The Government will then appoint a commission of inquiry. The commission can comprise one or several people. It may include experts, public officials or politicians. The commission of inquiry submits its proposals in the form of a report to the Government. The report is then published as part of a series called the Swedish Government Official Reports (SOU). If a government ministry has carried out the inquiry, the report is published in a series called the Ministry Publications Series (Ds). An inquiry may, for example, have the number SOU 2015:13. 2015 shows that the inquiry was completed that year and 13 that it was the thirteenth inquiry of the year. Referral for consideration After a commission of inquiry has submitted its report, the Government forwards it to relevant public agencies, organisations and municipalities in order to hear their opinions on the proposals. This is known as referral of a report for consideration. Anyone, including private individuals, is entitled to obtain a copy of the report and submit comments to the Government. Those wishing to comment on a report normally have at least three months in which to do so. As a rule, their answers should be given in writing so that all parties involved can access them. Proposals from the Government The Government writes down its proposals for new legislation in what is called a government bill. Before presenting a new bill, the Government adopts a position on the commission of inquiry's report and the comments of the referral bodies. If a large proportion of these referral bodies have been negative to the commission's proposals, the Government may decide not to proceed with the new law or may try to find another solution. The Council on Legislation examines legislative proposals The government bill is normally sent to the Council on Legislation which examines whether the proposed legislation contains any problems of a legal nature. It may, for example, conflict with the Swedish Constitution or other Swedish laws, or may go against the rule of law and lead to unfair treatment of the country's citizens. The Council on Legislation is made up of judges from the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. It is not only the Government that can send legislative proposals to the Council on Legislation. The parliamentary committees can also do so. The Council on Legislation's conclusions can then be read in the Government's or committee's proposal. Once the Government has completed its bill, it sends the proposal to the Riksdag. Each year, the Government presents some 200 bills to the Riksdag. Proposals from members of the Riksdag The members of the Riksdag can submit proposals to the Riksdag in the form of private members' motions. These proposals may be submitted by one member or by a group of members. There are rules that govern when private members' motions can be submitted and what topics they may deal with. Motions may be submitted in conjunction with a proposal from the Government. This means that the members can submit a counter-proposal no later than 15 days after a government bill has been presented to the Riksdag. Such motions must concern the same topic as the bill. General private members' motions period in the autumn Once a year during the general private members' motions period, members of the Riksdag can write motions on virtually any subject. The general private members' motions period begins when the Riksdag opens in the autumn and ends 15 days after the Government has submitted the Budget Bill to the Riksdag. The general private members' motions period The proposals are received by the Riksdag After the Government and members of the Riksdag have submitted a proposal to the Riksdag, the Chamber defers ("tables") its decision. It then sends the proposal to the relevant committee which continues to work with it.Normally, no debate is held when the Chamber tables a proposal. However, a member of the Riksdag can ask for the floor, and the debate that follows is then known as a tabling debate. Members can also ask for the floor when proposals are referred to a committee, even if this is not a common occurrence. The debate that follows is known as a referral debate. The committees consider the proposals Before the Chamber of the Riksdag decides whether to adopt a proposed law or amendment to law, the proposal must be considered in a parliamentary committee. There are 15 parliamentary committees, each with its own field of responsibility. Proposals on rail traffic are, for example, sent to the Committee on Transport and Communications and proposals on schools are sent to the Committee on Education. A considerable share of the work in the Riksdag is carried out in the committees. The members that make up the committees come from the different parties represented in the Riksdag. The larger parties have more members than the smaller parties. In this way, the composition of the committees usually reflects the balance of power in the Chamber. The members of a committee start by reading up on the various proposals, i.e. government bills and private members' motions. They check, for example, how the bill corresponds to previous legislation. They also examine whether the legislative proposal complies with what the committee has previously said to the Government on the matter. Sometimes the committee will invite experts and representatives of different organisations to obtain further information and to ask their opinions. Such hearings are sometimes open to the public. Other committee meetings are held behind closed doors. The Committee's proposal The members of the committee discuss what they think of the various proposals. When the committee has decided what stand to take, officials at the committee secretariat draft the committee report. The committee report contains the committee's recommendation as to the Riksdag's decision on the matter. The committee's proposal is based on what a majority of members of the committee think. Members who do not agree may submit reservations on the matter. In their reservations, the minority give an account of their view of the matter. The members consult their party groups Together, the members of a party form the parliamentary party group. In the party group the members of a parliamentary committee can discuss and prepare the matters that are raised in the committee. The members of the various committees consult their party groups. Each member has an individual seat in the Riksdag, and there are no rules that compel the members to follow the party line and do what the party group thinks. The Chamber debates and decides The proposal - the committee report - that the committee has submitted to the Chamber presents how the committee considers that the Riksdag should vote on the matter. But before the Riksdag takes a decision, the members receive a copy of the report in order to give them time to read it. A debate is often held before a decision is taken. In other cases, the members agree and there is no need for a debate. If a debate is held, the members of the committee that has considered the proposal begin by presenting their views. The debates are open to all members of the Riksdag that wish to participate. The official reporters of the parliamentary record write down everything that is said in the Chamber. The record and debates are all open to the public. The Chamber takes a decision Once the members have concluded their debate it is time for a decision. If there is just one proposal the Speaker, who presides over the Chamber, asks whether the Chamber can accept the proposal. If there are several proposals, they are set against each other. In this case, a vote is held. The record shows how the parties have voted. The Riksdag then sends a written communication to the Government to inform it of its decision. The communication from the Riksdag takes the form of a brief message. More detailed information about the decision is contained in the relevant committee report. The Government implements the Riksdag's decisions After the Riksdag has decided to adopt a new law, the first task for the Government is to ensure that the law is published in the Swedish Code of Statutes (SFS). The Code of Statutes is available on the Internet, where it can be accessed by anyone. It is the Government's task to implement the Riksdag's decisions, that is, to ensure that they are enforced in the way intended by the Riksdag. The Government Offices, including the ministries and the public agencies and state-owned companies, assist the Government in this task. The public agencies and state-owned companies are all accountable to the Government and put into practice the decisions taken by the Riksdag and the Government. The Police Authority, the Swedish Tax Agency and the National Board of Health and Welfare are all examples of public agencies. These agencies have an independent status. The Government issues guidelines for their work. Within this framework, each agency works on its own responsibility. In Sweden "ministerial rule" is prohibited. This means that the Government can direct but cannot intervene in the everyday work of the public agencies. The Riksdag follows up its decisions Every year, the Government presents a written communication to the Riksdag in which it presents the measures taken as a result of the Riksdag's various decisions. The Committee on the Constitution considers the communication, after which a debate is held in the Chamber. This is a way for the Riksdag to follow up its own decisions. There are a number of other ways for the Riksdag to follow up decisions. If the Riksdag is not satisfied with the Government's handling of a matter, the Riksdag can make an announcement to the Government, asking it to take another course of action in the matter. The parliamentary committees also evaluate and follow up various decisions by the Riksdag, for example, how new laws have functioned in practice.