Committees of the Nitijela
While most people understand the lawmaking function of the Nitijela, the oversight work of Senators is often less well known. However, parliamentary Committees are often referred to as the "workhorses" of a legislature, because it is in Committee that a lot of the detailed analysis and discussion of proposed laws occurs.
There are three types of Committees in the Nitijela; (i) the Committee of the Whole, (abbreviated as COW); (ii) permanent Standing Committees; and (iii) Special Committees.
The Committee of the Whole
Permanent Standing Committees
call and preside at meetings of the Committee; and
prepare and circulate the agenda and the minutes; and
invite witnesses to appear before the Committee; and
prepare draft reports for consideration by the Committee.
Functions of Committee Chairs
Each Committee is led by a Committee Chair. The Chairs of Committees perform functions in the Committee similar to the functions the Speaker performs at meetings of the Nitijela.
In general, Chairs are vested with the responsibility of ensuring that the proceedings of the Committee are conducted in accordance with the Rules and Procedures of the Nitijela. Chairmanship of Committees is usually distributed by the Speaker (subject to the approval of the Nitijela) to members who are not Ministers.
Chairs of Committees:
Chairs of Committees are supported in their functions by the Legislative Counsel and Clerk of the Nitijela, particularly in relation to the production of reports and other required documentation.
Functions of Committees
Each Committee has a duty to diligently research into matters referred to it by a Nitijela Act or Resolution. The point of committee work is to give Senators, members of the public, and key stakeholders time to consider a Bill or Resolution in detail. Parliamentary Committees in the Marshall Islands commonly hold public hearings, which offer the public an opportunity to make oral and written submissions to the Committee about their views on the proposed Bill or Resolution. A Committee can specifically invite experts or key stakeholders to make a submission.
Rule 34 of the Rules and Procedures of the Nitijela empowers Committees to summon and examine witnesses, call for papers and search documents and records. This rule enables Committees to discover for the Nitijela all relevant facts in relation to any matter.
Stakeholders can also themselves request to be heard by the Committee, through petitions, letters or other forms of communications, directly to the Speaker, individual members of the Nitijela or to the Committee Chairs.
Once a Parliamentary Committee has completed its hearings and deliberations, the Committee must report its findings and recommendations to the Nitijela. The Legislative Counsel is tasked with providing secretariat support to Committees, for the purpose of producing such reports. A draft report is tabled before the Committee for approval by at least a quorum, before it is finalized for the signatures of the members of the Committee.