ATI on Legislation (IL0020)
The Knesset resolved to act to increase transparency of information regarding legislation and the relevant documents – drafts of proposed legislation and protocols of the plenary and the committees, as well as to prepare an up-to-date draft of the laws of the State of Israel. Main objective is to increase transparency of the process and documents related to legislation.Challenge - Increasing transparency
IRM Midterm Status Summary
Commitment 7. Increasing Transparency of Information Regarding Legislation
Commitment Text: To consolidate all the State laws and relevant documents on the Knesset website.
Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: The Knesset resolved to act to increase transparency of information regarding legislation and the relevant documents – drafts of proposed legislation and protocols of the plenary and the committees, as well as to prepare an up-to-date draft of the laws of the State of Israel.
Main Objective: To increase transparency of the process and documents related to legislation
7.1 To expand the Knesset website so that it includes all the State laws and relevant documents (earlier versions of the law, relevant amendments, plenary protocols)
7.2 To hold meetings with civil society organizations to hear requests and ideas to expand the information presented and how it is made accessible to the public.
7.3 To expand the Knesset website and present proposed legislation in the legislative process.
7.4 To develop an integrated system for presenting the totality of all legislation.
Responsible institution: Israeli Knesset
Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Justice
Start date: July 1, 2013 End date: June 30, 2017
Context and objectives:
Prior to this commitment, there was no government website or database with the complete collection of Israeli legislation that was open and free to the public at large. Legal documents were accessible only in public libraries or through private reports that required expensive subscriptions and were available only to law firms and academics, although some of these were part of free access sites. Citizens could not easily access or consult on the legislation without significant financial costs. Some of this legislation was accessible in different sites without any specific integration. This commitment intends to make legal documents more accessible and unrestricted to the overall population in Israel. Free, open access allows citizens to learn about their rights and duties more easily, to understand the laws controlling their lives and society, and to more easily engage in Israeli public discourse that is heavily dependent on legal institutions.
This commitment is objectively verifiable by examining the legislation database on the Knesset website. http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Legislation/Laws/Pages/LawAboutSite.aspx. However, the commitment lacks measurable benchmarks or achievements. The commitment affects access to information as it provides citizens with tools to engage with the government on current legislation and previously drafted instruments. It empowers citizens by making the legal discourse, which dominates Israel's public affairs, more accessible to them.
The potential of this commitment is moderate. On the one hand, it dramatically reduces the difficulties that existed in the past to access legislation. On the other, in reality, genuinely interested individuals could have obtained most of the relevant information either through subscription services, various government websites (each website presenting agency-specific legislation) or unofficial initiatives (such as the 'wikitext' initiative – 'Israel's open legislation book'). https://goo.gl/b5uLTZ. Therefore, while the commitment is a significant contribution toward comprehensive public access to information, it falls short of transforming ‘business as usual’ access to legal and policy documentation in Israel.
From a review of the legislation database in the Knesset website, the IRM researchers concluded that the first milestone of the commitment was completed. http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Legislation/Laws/Pages/LawHome.aspx, According to the sampling conducted by the IRM researchers, most of the comprehensive legislation since the foundation of the State of Israel has been included. The website has yet to reach the goal of Milestone 1.4 (totality of all legislation). Indeed, the website states that statutes from the times of the British mandate are yet to be uploaded.
Additionally, consultations with civil society representatives from academia and think tanks were conducted during the design and implementation of the website. Dr. Tehilla Schwartz-Altshuller (Member of the Israel Democracy Institute) interview on September 2016. However, this process is undocumented and could only be verified by interviews with several individuals who took part in such consultations. According to those consulted by IRM researchers, this was not a structured process though those participating felt they were heard and their ideas were often incorporated into the website development. Additionally, CSO representatives have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome in terms of the usability of the site, especially its comprehensive content and effective search options.
Furthermore, uploading documents other than statute text is substantially completed, at least in regards to legislation from the past decade. These documents include minutes of Knesset committee meetings in which bills were discussed, minutes of Knesset plenary sessions, earlier versions of bills and many non-legislative official announcements. While most of this information was available earlier; the effect of the commitment was to transfer this information to a better designed, organised and free website.
Early Results (if any)
The website is currently operational with the texts of statutes as foreseen by the commitment. Draft legislation and committee minutes from earlier times are still waiting to be integrated to a dedicated area of the Knesset website, though they do appear in other sections of the site.
Given that the site is currently running and the government has indicated that it will soon be completed, this commitment should be implemented in the remaining period of the action plan.
Indeed, this commitment made publicly available in a free, usable and open manner, information of utmost significance – the laws that govern our society and lives. Before the commitment, such information was available only through expensive subscription services. Yet the researchers stress that open legislation is a very basic notion of democracy. That laws should be made public is not a progressive open-government vision, but a fundamental democratic one. Given that the site is up and running and that the government's midterm report suggests it will soon to be completed, the researchers’ view is that this activity, as important and well managed as it may be, should not be part of future OGP action plans.
Future activities can build on this commitment by creating tools for the public to proactively engage with the provided information. For instance, the public might gain the capability to propose legislative amendments to parliament members and use the information on the website to structure and substantiate their arguments. Another improvement could be website tools that enable the public to examine legislative implementation. It should be noted that as of February 2017, the Knesset is launching a new public consultation process to realize these goals. This information was reported to the IRM researchers by several CSO representatives invited to partake in the process.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
7. Increasing Transparency of Information Regarding Legislation
To consolidate all the State laws and relevant documents on the Knesset website.
Status quo or problem/issue to be addressed: The Knesset resolved to act to increase transparency of information regarding legislation and the relevant documents - drafts of proposed legislation and protocols of the plenary and the committees, as well as to prepare an up-to-date draft of the laws of the State of Israel.
Main Objective: To increase transparency of the process and documents related to legislation
7.1. To expand the Knesset website so that it includes all the State laws and relevant documents (earlier versions of the law, relevant amendments, plenary protocols)
7.2. To hold meetings with civil society organizations to hear requests and ideas to expand the information presented and how it is made accessible to the public.
7.3. To expand the Knesset website and present proposed legislation in the legislative process.
7.4. To develop an integrated system for presenting the totality of all legislation.
Responsible institution: Israeli Knesset
Supporting institution: Ministry of Justice
Start date: 1 July 2013
End date: 30 June 2017
Prior to the implementation of the second OGP action plan, there was no central website or database with information on Israeli legislation that was open and free to the public. This commitment intended to make such legislative documents more accessible and less restricted to the public by expanding the Knesset website to include all State laws and their relevant documents. In addition, the commitment called on the Knesset to meet with civil society to receive requests and ideas on what information should be included on the website.
The commitment was substantially implemented by the time of the IRM midterm report. The Knesset had, by then, developed its free and open website to present all Israeli legislation, and an ongoing dialogue was taking place between the Knesset and civil society. As stated in the midterm report, there was no structured consultation process and no documentation of such consultations. Israel IRM Midterm Report, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Israel_MidTerm-Progress_2015-2017_ENG.pdf, pg. 44. Consultations did take place, but in a somewhat informal and sporadic fashion. While the commitment was technically completed in that all milestones were implemented, there were some issues with updating he database. As the specific wording of the milestones were largely met - for instance 'to develop an integrated system for presenting the consolidated version of legislation'- the commitment was marked as substantially completed. The IRM researchers, however, did point out that the Knesset's plan for actually presenting the totality of legislation (rather than merely creating a system to do so) was not completed. According to the government, completion is on schedule for December 2018. For more information, see the IRM midterm report. Id, pg. 44.
End of term: Complete
Since the midterm, the Knesset has continued to develop this website in line with the commitment. As stated above, the commitment was substantially implemented when compared with the narrow wording in the action plan but has since gone beyond the commitment milestones to come closer to realizing its full potential. All bills are now available online, including those rejected by parliament. The full history of each bill and the status of the pending bills are also available on the website. The history and status of each bill, http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Legislation/Laws/Pages/LawAboutSite.aspx. There is an ongoing dialogue with CSOs. They were approached again in early 2017 with a call for comments on the website Comments were received from the 'Public Knowledge Workshop' and Center for Empowerment of Citizens in Israel (CECI) and were integrated into the website. Interview with Ms. Gali Ben-Or, director of legislation website, 21 September 2017.
The head of the website informed the IRM researcher that the Knesset's intensive 'marketing' efforts through CSOs, government officials, online new agencies, law school deans and more, have enabled them to increase traffic to the website, which currently gets more than 100,000 page views a month. Interview with Gali Ben-Or, head of the legislation website, 17 September 2017. The website is still short of presenting all laws in their 'integrated form', i.e. with all amendments incorporated into the text. The website director believes this will take place during 2018. The website director also hopes to be able to present all secondary legislation soon, but this requires the cooperation of the Ministry of Justice, so it could be difficult to obtain the necessary information.
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Major
Civic Participation: Marginal
Open access to legislative information without additional charges allows citizens to more easily learn about their rights and duties, to better understand the laws controlling their lives and society, and to more easily engage in the highly-legalized Israeli public discourse. Before the implementation of this commitment, citizens of Israel had no access to a free online source to familiarize themselves with the country's laws, the legislative process, or the status of bills. Implementation of this commitment has made this information open and easily accessible to the Israeli public. There is still room for improvement in that the full text of laws as they exist, with all amendments incorporated, is still not available, and laypersons can still find it difficult to understand the current legal situation. But the Knesset officials in charge of the commitment are aware of this shortcoming and are working to solve it. In general, it can confidently be said that the commitment's implementation is a major contribution to the public's access to important information. The ongoing dialogue with CSOs and the incorporation of CSO comments into the website has improved civic participation, though only marginally. It cannot be said, however, that it presented a significant contribution to increasing civic participation in the democratic decision-making process.
This commitment has been carried forward to Israel's third action plan.