Yesterday we spoke with the Senator for Government Business, Godwin Hulse who explained the passing of the Bills in the Senate on Monday as well as the PACT Bill 2017 that was very much opposed. We told you that the Bill has been delayed but according to Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, that is not the case. He explained why the Bill has neither been delayed nor blocked.
“I don’t know how often it has happened so I don’t know if its historic but I know that its very rare that a bill passed by the house then goes to the senate and then the senate rejects it or votes against the bill because as far as I know for as long as I can remember the government’s side in the senate which is always the majority if you base on the majority in the house would always outnumber the other side, in this case we have thirteen senators six of whom were appointed by the government and it was the government that passed the PACT bill primarily in the house. So the senate voted against it but that does not mean at all that it was blocked or delayed because under the constitution there can be no blocking or delaying of a money bill and its very clear in the constitution under section 78 1 which says if a money bill having been passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the senate at least one month before the end of the session which was clearly fulfilled we are not less than a month or less than a month from the session, is not passed by the senate without amendment; it wasn’t passed by the senate and there was no amendment, within one month after it is sent to that house meaning then it was passed by the house and within one month it was sent to the senate which clearly it was about a week; the bill shall unless the House of Representatives otherwise resolves be presented to the Governor General for Assent not withstanding that the senate has not consented to the bill. So you have the constitution saying that yes in the senate you can have a debate and for the record the senate in a majority ruling can reject the bill passed by the house but if it is a money bill that bill is not delayed notwithstanding the vote in the senate the bill still passes through to the Governor General to become law that is what the constitution says.”
With that clarification from the Attorney General on the powers of the Senate when it comes to Money Bills, it does beg the question as to the role of the 13th Senator. Peyrefitte went on to speak on the Constitution and how it regards both the House of Representatives as opposed to the Senate.
“The people who were selected can never have more authority or say than the people who were elected. In the senate we are not elected we are selected so it’s very difficult to understand how people would think that a body that was selected could override a body that was elected the constitution does not provide for that. When it comes to bills that are not money bills, if you want to amend the criminal code or something like that. Even in that case the senate can delay it for about six months or so but you can’t stop it because then the constitution in its very next section says that after the second rejection or after a period of 6 months then it goes right through and the Governor General assents and that it becomes the law notwithstanding the rejection of the senate.”
So, with all that being said the PACT Bill though challenged by the majority in the Senate will become effective at April 1, 2017.
“I have to say that the bills and everything are in order and yes indeed that is the case there is no separation of them other than for the record in the senate it will be recorded as rejected by the senate but given the fact that it was a money bill because when it goes to the Governor General it will have the signature of the speaker that indeed it came to the house as a money bill that being certified to by the speaker when it goes to the Governor General he will assent because then he will know that no matter what the senate says a money bill has to be assented to by the Governor General. It doesn’t have to be but you know the Governor General has a choice technically according to the constitution but that would be historic for the Governor General to reject something sent to him to be assented to by the National Assembly.”
“So is it safe to say that come the start of the fiscal year all these bills would be effected including the PACT one?”
“Yes all the bills that were passed for the dates for them to become effective for example the PACT bill it was not affected by the majority NO vote in the senate.”
The Government of Belize issued a press release today reflecting what the Attorney General clarified for us. The PACT Amendment Bill will charge an additional thirty two dollars and fifty cents to foreigners leaving Belize via air bringing the total to forty two dollars and fifty cents.