The process of law-making in the County Assembly in Kenya takes place in several stages, from the First Stage to assent by the County Governor.

Article 1 of the Constitution delegates the people’s sovereign power to legislative assemblies in the county governments, among other State Organs.

A Bill, in this case, is a proposal for a new, or a proposal to change existing, law presented for debate before the County Assembly.

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Origin of Bills at the county level

A Bill may originate from the following–

  • a political party - introduced in the County Assembly in the name of the Leader of the Majority Party or the Leader of the Minority Party, or their respective deputies;
  • the County Executive - introduced in the name of the Leader of the Majority Party or Leader of the Minority Party, or the name of the Chairperson of the relevant Committee;
  • individual members of the County Assembly - introduced in the name of the member sponsoring the Bill;
  • a Committee of the County Assembly - introduced in the name of the Chairperson or a member designated by the Committee;
  • a member of the public may also petition the Assembly according to the provision of Section 15 of the County Governments Act and the Standing Orders to legislate on a matter - introduced by way of a Petition conveyed by the Speaker and committed to the relevant Departmental Committee for consideration and publication of the consequential Bill;
  • alternatively, members of the public may forward legislative proposals to Members of the County Assembly.

Process of Law Making in the County Assembly

The Process of law-making in the County Assembly occurs in several stages through which a bill passes through the Assembly after its publication.

First Reading

The first reading of a Bill involves the Assembly Clerk introducing the Bill to the Assembly for the first time by reading its title. The stage is a formality where no voting or debate occurs.

The Bill is then assigned a tracking number and committed to the relevant Departmental Committee of the Assembly for consideration.

The Committee then facilitates public participation through appropriate means such as–

  • inviting submission of memoranda;
  • holding public hearings;
  • consulting relevant stakeholders; and
  • consulting experts on technical subjects.

The Committee considers the views and recommendations of the public when considering the Bill and preparing its report to the Assembly.

The Committee then scrutinises the Bill by calling in the sponsor of the Bill, inviting various stakeholders and later compiles a report to the Assembly with any specific proposed amendments that the Committee of the Whole Assembly considers later.

Second Reading

A second reading is a stage in the law-making process in the County Assembly where a draft of a Bill is read out for the second time.

Members of the County Assembly debate the main purpose and principles of the Bill while seated in plenary. The member responsible for the Bill opens the debate for a second reading by setting out the case for the Bill and outlining its provisions, while a member seconds it. A Bill that is not seconded is withdrawn.

The discussion covers all aspects of the Bill, including its goals, principles, and how its passage will affect the general public.

The report of the Departmental Committee assists the members to debate the Bill, particularly to grasp the views of the public or the effects of the Bill on other laws.

The nature of a Bill determines its debate stage, ranging from a few hours to several sitting days.

The County Assembly Speaker permits a Bill’s proposer to react to any issues expressed by the Assembly after the debate. The Speaker then poses the question, causing the Assembly to vote on whether or not the Bill should go to the next stage.

No amendments can be made to the (text of the) Bill at this stage, although members may give an idea of the changes they will be proposing later.

Committee Stage

The stage takes place through the Committee of the Whole Assembly. The committee stage entails a careful (line-by-line) study of the Bill’s many parts (clauses) and voting by members of the Committee on each modification.

The Committee of the Whole Assembly consists of all members of the Assembly seated in form of a committee, who the Deputy Speaker or any member of the Chairpersons’ panel presides.

The Committee decides whether each clause of the Bill should remain in it. Every clause in the Bill is agreed to, changed or removed.

The Bill’s clauses and schedules are approved by the Committee of the Whole Assembly, with or without revisions. Following the conclusion of the meeting, the Committee, through its Chairperson, submits a report to the Assembly for approval.

The amendments may propose new changes to the Bill’s existing provisions or include the addition of new ones. When introduced, however, the modifications should be close to the Bill’s subject matter.

Bill amendments at the committee stage (and other stages) may include revisions to ensure the Bill functions as intended, give effect to a new policy, or be concessionary amendments to make the Bill more manageable.

Concessionary amendments respond to points raised at an earlier stage or are tabled to avoid a government defeat at the stage in question.

Report Stage

This stage takes place in the chamber of the Assembly during plenary sitting. The Assembly only discusses amendments during this stage.

The Assembly receives a report and votes on it following a procedural Motion. At this stage, any Member may, with reasons, also move the Assembly to resolve itself into a Committee again to reconsider any specified clauses of the Bill. This is known as re-committal.

The amendments may change what is in the bill already or may involve new provisions being added.

Third Reading

The third reading of a Bill involves a general discussion of the Bill immediately after the Report Stage. Amendments (proposals for change) cannot be made to a Bill at the third reading, though tidying up amendments might be acceptable.

The tidying up of a Bill (drafting amendments and re-numbering of clauses) ensures the eventual law is effective and workable (without loopholes).

Debate is usually short and limited to what is actually in the Bill, rather than what might have been included, like in the Second Reading.

At the end of the debate, the Assembly takes a final vote on the Bill, that is, it decides (votes on) whether to approve the third reading of the Bill.

County Governor’s Assent

Once the Assembly passes the Bill, the Speaker presents it to the County Governor who, within fourteen days, may-

  • assent to the Bill;
  • refer the Bill back to the County Assembly with a memorandum of reservations.

If the County Governor assents a Bill, it becomes law.

The law may not take effect immediately and the date of commencement may be indicated (as a later date). This allows the county government to plan accordingly, such as to prepare regulations that fill in the details of the new law.

Referral of a Bill back to the County Assembly

If the County Governor refers a Bill back to the Assembly, the Assembly should reconsider the Bill confining itself to the clauses the County Governor expressed reservations, including any recommendations the County Governor may make on the clauses, and-

  • the County Assembly may either amend the Bill in light of the County Governor’s reservations or pass the Bill a Second time without amendments. If the Assembly passes the Bill fully accommodating the County Governor’s reservations, the Speaker presents the Bill to the County Governor for assent;
  • the Assembly may pass the Bill a second time and–
    • notwithstanding the County Governor’s reservations insist on its initial text; or
    • pass the Bill a second time with amendments that do not fully accommodate the County Governor’s reservations.
      both cases require a two-thirds majority of the County Assembly. Thereafter, the Speaker presents the Bill again to the County Governor for assent.