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On Some Problems in Assessing the Quality and Impacts of Legislation

19 December 2001

Studies

RiTo No. 4, 2001

The letter of the law gives the laws their form, but the deeper goals of laws are not juridical in their essence.

At the same time, every week in journalism brings more news on the formal targets of legislation, e.g. to bring a law in compliance with the law of the European Union, etc. What will the legal act change in the lives of the target groups, what will the gains and losses be, how does the law comply with the principles of social justice, and have public interests been protected? These aspects often remain concealed as far as the voter is concerned. Informing of the public of the changes is, Kasemets believes, in the first place a moral, and only then legal and economic issue. Proceeding to the need for analysis of social-economic, budgetary, administrative and other regulatory impacts, Kasemets emphasises that in a state of law, the law as such is a liaison of politics at achieving social, economic, educational, cultural, etc. goals that relies, in an ideal case, on values shared by the society, as the validity of a legal act depends on people’s behaviour. The deeper goal of each draft law is either to preserve the target group’s behaviour in the society in the desired mode or to change it in the desired direction. Therefore, the stronger the legitimacy in society of the activities of both the parliament and the government and of each single legal act, the more their underlying purposes/impacts have been publicly discussed and the greater the impact of the legal act corresponds to the public interests. The latter can be measured by means of social sciences, despite the multiplicity of aims, both in politics and in the laws.

Kasemets briefly introduces the activities of the Economic and Social Information Department in the field of assessment of quality of legislation and impacts of draft laws: the projects are related to sociological research works (feedback to the parliament from the society) and evaluation of social-economical impacts of draft laws (incl. explanatory notes) that have been submitted to the Riigikogu for processing. The governing idea of the article is that the quality of scientific analysis applied in development of legislation and explanatory notes has an impact on the success of the implementation of the Riigikogu’s functions and the quality of public services.1 Given that the information presented to the Riigikogu via draft laws is accessible to the public through the Internet and other channels of media, its quality, besides the working of the Riigikogu, also affects the essence of discussions amongst non-governmental associations and the press; as a final result – also the attitude towards laws and their observance.2


1See European Commission (2001), Democratising Expertise and Establishing Scientific Reference Systems. White Paper on Governance. Brussels. http://europa.eu.int/comm/governance/areas/group2/report_en.pdf; also Stiglitz J. E. (1998), Knowledge for Development: Economic Science, Economic Policy and Economic Advice. World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/extme/js-abcde98/js_abcde98.htm.

2The article is a further development of the comparative study of ECPRD (www.ecprd.org). See Kasemets A. (2001), Impact Assessment of Legislation for Parliament and Civil Society: a Comparative Study. In Legal and Regulatory Impact Assessment of Legislation. Proceedings of ECPRD seminar, held in Tallinn in 21-22 May 2001, ed by A. Kasemets. http://www.riigikogu.ee/rva/ecprd_ria01.html; see also OECD (2000), Report on Parliamentary Procedures and Relations – Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments, Rome 22-24 Sept. PUMA, Paris. http://www1.oecd.org/puma/citizens/pubs/parliaments.pdf.

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