Kenya

Legislator who boasts highest number of bills

Legislator who boasts highest number of bills
  • In the 12th Parliament, she is venerated as the legislator with the highest number of private members bills ever published.

    Article 110 (3) of the Constitution requires speakers of the two Houses to determine the nature of bills before introduction in either House.

Moving from a lecture hall to the debating chamber of Parliament was not an easy transition for Dr Agnes Zani, the twice nominated ODM senator.

Actually, it was never meant to be because of the unique and contrasting characteristics of the two theatres, and the boisterous nature of Kenyan politics.

But seven years later, Dr Zani appears to have painlessly settled in, disabusing the long held view that however dirty, scholars can still carve their niche in the Kenyan body-politic if they so wish.

“It has been a great opportunity changing theory into practice and getting a chance to address societal inequalities through legislation and action,” the senator says of her transition to politics that started after she was first nominated in 2013.

Plucked from the University of Nairobi lecture halls, where she was teaching Statistics at the Department of Sociology, the senator says her seven-year stint in elective politics has been a roller-coaster of sorts.

INTENSE RESEARCH

As she soars to greater heights of her political career, she still clings to that old adage that once a teacher, always one.

“I do step into my classes when I can and take my students through statistics lessons,” she says.

“I ask if they have questions at the end… I have continued to supervise my students and I also publish.”

The key role of a legislator is to make laws, besides providing oversight to State institutions and representing the people.

It’s not just that legislation is an exclusive domain of Parliament, but the task of developing laws is rough, tough and a painstakingly critical component of being an MP.

In fact, it takes a lot of time, effort and resources to develop a bill, which is a tall order for most MPs.

This could explain why at least 90 per cent of legislators end their term without attempting to initiate a new law.

“A lot of research needs to go into it and one must ensure that the whole bill flows well and that the nexus of the issue is well-addressed,” she says.

REVENUE SHARING

Yet despite all the challenges, Dr Zani has had her 1.59 moment if the recent achievement by marathoner Eliud Kipchoge is any measure.

In the 12th Parliament, she is venerated as the legislator with the highest number of private members bills ever published.

So far, she has drafted a total of seven bills, no mean feat to an MP.

The bills are the Natural Resources Benefit Sharing Bill (2018), the Elections Amendment Bill (2018) and the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill 2019, which seeks to establish own source revenue system within the 47 counties.

Others are County Tourism Bill (2019), the Establishment of Children’s Homes Bill (2019), the Community Health Services Bill (2019), and the County Government Amendment Bill (2019), which provides timelines within which a vacancy is filled within the county executive.

The Resources Benefit Bill addresses the contentious issue of sharing of revenue from natural resources among the national, county governments and local communities.

HEADWINDS

She has also sponsored various motions related to the oversight function of Senate and other topical issues of concern.

The Resource Sharing Bill evokes some kind of sweet pain for Dr Zani because the road leading to its publication was long-drawn.

It first started as a motion she introduced in the Senate in 2013, which was later adopted by the House.

However, so excited by the idea of communities sharing proceeds of resources in their midst, senators felt that inasmuch as the motion raised significant issues, they could only be implemented through legislation.

But once it was published, it ran into the headwinds that have characterised the relationship between the two chambers of Parliament.

“It is one of the bills that the National Assembly termed money bills,” she says of a technical term that means that the processing of the bill was outside the mandate of the Senate.

The 12th Parliament has formulated a version entrenching it in the counties and it is being processed and almost completed at the Senate.

BICAMERAL LEGISLATION

Another hurdle in lawmaking is found in the bureaucracy of the bicameral Parliament that has demotivated lawmakers, especially senators, in initiating bills.

Article 110 (3) of the Constitution requires speakers of the two Houses to determine the nature of bills before introduction in either House.

This has been a sore thumb in the relationship between the Houses.

“The provisions of article 110(3) have not always been enacted. This makes the process of bicameral legislation challenging because many bills from Senate that should provide for appropriate action in counties when implemented have not been processed,” Dr Zani says.