CIVIC EDUCATION 101: How Bills become laws in Kenya.

  • 28 Jun 2024
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Jewel Tete


One of Parliament’s main jobs is to make laws, as stated in Article 94 of the Constitution. The National Assembly creates laws by passing Bills, which the President then approves. A legislative proposal is basically an idea for a Bill, while a Bill is a proposed law that has been prepared for introduction in the National Assembly. Bills can create new laws, change existing ones, or remove old laws.


Bills can start in different ways 

A political party can introduce a Bill through the Leader of the Majority or Minority Party or their deputies. The government can introduce a Bill through leaders or committee chairs. Individual Members of Parliament can introduce Bills themselves. Committees of the House can also introduce Bills through their chairs or designated members. Additionally, citizens can petition Parliament to create a law, and the Speaker can then introduce it. Citizens can also send their legislative ideas directly to Members of Parliament.

How to introduce a Bill in the House

A legislative proposal needs a sponsor. A member or a Committee of the National Assembly submits the proposal to the Speaker for approval. The proposal must include a memo that explains its purpose, any delegation of powers, limitations on rights, effects on county governments, and financial implications. The memo should clearly state the Bill’s objectives. Once received, the Speaker sends the proposal to the Clerk, who helps draft it in the correct format and style. The Clerk also advises the Speaker on whether the proposal affects county governments, if it’s a money Bill, and if it complies with the Constitution and the law.

When a legislative proposal, accompanied by the Clerk’s comments, is received, it follows a specific process

  1. Non-money Bills 

If the proposal is sponsored by a committee, the Speaker approves its publication as a Bill. However, if an individual member sponsors the proposal, the Speaker refers it to the relevant departmental committee. This committee reviews the proposal by consulting with the sponsor, entities like the Kenya Law Reform Commission, the Attorney-General, and relevant State Departments. After their assessment, the committee recommends to the Speaker whether the proposal should proceed to publication as a Bill. 

  • Money Bills 

The Speaker directs them to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. This committee evaluates the proposal’s impact on current and future budgets and considers inputs from the Finance Secretary. Based on their analysis, they advise the Speaker on whether to approve the proposal for publication as a Bill. If approved, the proposal then advances to be published as a Bill.

Once a Bill is published, it goes through several stages

  1. First reading: The Bill is introduced in the House by the Clerk, who reads its title. There is no debate or vote at this stage. The Bill is then sent to the relevant departmental committee for review. The committee seeks public input through various methods, such as inviting written submissions, holding public hearings, and consulting stakeholders and experts. The committee considers these views, scrutinises the Bill, and prepares a report with any proposed amendments for the House.
  2. Second reading: This is the main debate stage. The House discusses the Bill’s merits and drawbacks. The Bill is moved by its sponsor and must be seconded by another member. If not seconded, the Bill is withdrawn. The debate covers the Bill’s principles, objectives, and potential impact on citizens. The committee’s report helps members understand public and expert opinions. After the debate, the Speaker allows the proposer to respond to issues raised, and then the House votes on whether the Bill should proceed.
  3. Committee stage: At this stage, the entire House forms a committee to examine the Bill clause by clause. The Deputy Speaker or a designated member presides over this process. Proposed amendments are considered and voted on. The committee starts with Clause 3 (or Clause 2 if there are no definitions) and ends with Clause 1, which includes the Bill’s title and commencement. The committee approves the clauses with or without amendments and then reports back to the House for approval.
  4. Report stage: The House votes on the committee’s report. If necessary, members can request revisiting specific clauses, known as re-committal. The House then votes on whether to accept the report.
  5. Third reading: This is the final stage in the House. Only minor changes, such as drafting amendments and renumbering clauses, are allowed. There is usually little debate, and the House takes a final vote.
  6. President’s assent: Once the House passes the Bill, the Speaker sends it to the President for approval. The President has 14 days to either sign the Bill into law or send it back to the House with suggestions for changes.
  7. Referral of a Bill back to Parliament: If the President returns the Bill, the House reviews only the clauses the President has reservations about. The House can:
  • Amend the Bill according to the President’s suggestions and send it back for approval.
  • Pass the Bill again without changes or with partial changes, requiring a two-thirds majority. The Speaker then sends the Bill back to the President for approval.

Bills relating to county governments

After a Bill concerning county governments passes its Third Reading in the National Assembly, it moves to the Senate for review. The Senate goes through a process similar to the National Assembly, progressing the Bill from the First Reading to the Third Reading. The Senate has three options: they can reject the Bill outright, pass it without making changes, or pass it with amendments.

If the Senate approves the Bill without amendments, they send it back to the National Assembly with a formal message. The Speaker of the National Assembly then presents the Bill to the President for approval.

If the Senate passes the Bill with amendments, it sends them to the National Assembly for consideration. If the National Assembly agrees with the amendments, the Speaker presents the amended Bill to the President for approval. However, if the National Assembly disagrees with any amendments, the Bill is referred to a Mediation Committee to reconcile the differences.

If the Senate rejects the Bill entirely, it will also go to a Mediation Committee, where representatives from both chambers will work to find a consensus on its content.

The mediation committees

A Mediation Committee is made up of members from both Houses and has 30 days to agree on a version of the Bill that both Houses can accept. If both Houses approve the Mediation Committee’s version, the Speaker of the National Assembly presents the Bill to the President for approval. If the Mediation Committee cannot agree within 30 days, or if either House rejects the Committee’s version, the Bill is considered lost. A Bill that starts in the Senate and is rejected by the National Assembly is also sent to a Mediation