A7. The Law Amendments Committee is the third stage in the five-stage law-making process.
After second reading debate is finished, a bill moves to the Law Amendments Committee. I’ll call it LAC for short.
The LAC has a bad name. It should be called the Public Hearings Committee, because that’s 99% of what it does.
The LAC has nine members. The party composition of the committee reflects, more or less, the composition of the House. Since the Liberals have a majority in the House, they have a majority on all committees too.
The LAC is chaired by the Minister of Justice, or anyone to whom the minister delegates the job. Since the government wants to keep control of how the LAC operates, the minister will only ever let another government MLA take the chair.
If you go to the LAC, you will see one or two people sitting beside the Minister of Justice. They are lawyers from the Office of the Legislative Counsel. They are the ones who actually write the bills and amendments. They’re there to listen to the submissions, in case the committee decides to amend the bill based on a submission. (In truth, that almost never happens.)
The LAC meets only in the Red Room of Province House in downtown Halifax. It could theoretically meet elsewhere—for example, in other towns around Nova Scotia—but I’ve only ever seen it do that once. Don’t expect it to happen again in your lifetime.
Because the LAC meets in the Red Room, its meetings are not broadcast on Legislative TV. However, during the LAC meeting concerning Bill 75 on February 16, 2017, the committee granted permission to media outlets to live-stream. To my recollection, that is a first for the LAC.
Any member of the public may ask to speak to the LAC. The roster is kept by the Office of the Legislative Counsel. There’s a good web page that explains how to participate. I won’t repeat all that information here.
That’s what the LAC is. In separate posts, I’ve written about how the LAC really works, some tips on how to make a good presentation to the LAC, and some unique features of the LAC hearings on Bill 59.
After a bill is finished in the LAC, it moves on to Committee of the Whole House, which is the fourth stage in the five-stage law-making process.