House and the Senate Lacks Meeting Schedule says Robin Tucker OBA

Parliament does not have a set meeting schedule for House and Senate debates, but it needs one.
After the 2024/25 Budget debates in March, the House of Assembly reconvened on 3 May and debated the Bermuda Health Council Amendment Act 2024.
This important Bill would have been debated in the Senate on 8 May, which was nomination day for the Constituency 10 bye-election contenders.
The Senate meeting date was changed from 8 May to 15 May and agreed upon.  Work and travel schedules were all adjusted to accommodate the new meeting date then a day later, notification was sent informing that the Senate  will now reconvene on 29 May
It is concerning that in this day and age, neither Houses of Parliament have a calendar of meeting dates that allow for legislators to firm up work obligations, business travel and other commitments which can be difficult to change.
Legislators are committed to ensuring that the peoples’ business is conducted and the legislative agenda is advanced. However, it can be more efficiently done with the creation of a calendar from which everyone involved (e.g. legislature staff and civil servants) can plan and adequately prepare.
Since there is no pre-set debate schedule the Government has within its remit to schedule and adjust meeting dates at their whim and without regard for any disruption it causes. But does it make it right?
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention times we have been brought in to discuss ‘urgent’ matters such as the the Motor Car (Classic Cars) Amendment Bill allowing residents to import and  drive classic cars on our roads.
Random changes to agreed parliamentary meeting dates is hugely disruptive not just for the Opposition but for everyone involved who must make themselves available to ensure that the legislative process is carried out and fully supported.   It is not just the Opposition and others impacted by the scheduling issues, but there are times that work or travel conflicts arise from date changes that even some Government legislators have been unable to attend (re)scheduled debates.
Having a calendar of parliamentary meeting dates for both the House of Assembly and the Senate is achievable if there is a willingness on the part of the Government to do it.  Other jurisdictions, including the UK’s House of Commons has a schedule online that identifies the topics that are up for debate and when they will be debated.
A calendar such as this would not only be a great tool for legislators but also for easy public access.  A calendar seems like a simple fix that can solve a big problem and ensure that all hands are on deck to do the peoples’ business.

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