It is common knowledge that the Senate has been described time and time again as a “rubber-stamp” with no power or teeth. In an interview with Senator Godwin Hulse on Friday, he conceded that the Senate lives up to that description specifically as it pertains to money bills.
Senator Godwin Hulse – Senator of Government Business
“I didn’t knock on your door and say, ‘Give me a vote.’ The people who knock on your door and ask for a vote, that you give a vote to, are the only people able to tax you and spend your money. Nobody else. So, it’s the House of Representatives, the elected Representatives, who tax the people and spend the people’s money.
When they say, ‘We are spending money on electrification,’ we the Senate have no power to say ‘No’ or ‘Yes.’ The reason it comes to us, and if you take the time out you will see, that in the Finance and Audit Act, the previous one to the 2005, it said, ‘…must go to the House of Representatives.’
During the Political Reform Process, I expanded it, fought to expand it, to go to the Senate. Not to go to the Senate so that the Senate could approve, get me clear, to go to the Senate so we know it went to the house. Because, previously to that it never went to the House. Under the PUP, they never went to the House. This is how we had all this DFC and all sorts of resolutions we never knew anything about.
But now we know it went to the House, because it comes to the Senate, and if there is any error we correct it, but it doesn’t come to the Senate to say, ‘Oh but we don’t approve.’ Oh no, ’cause that’s not within our jurisdiction. So, in that regard, it will be a rubber stamp.”
The piece of legislation, that Senator Hulse made reference to, was chapters 78 and 79 of the laws of the State and Constitution acts of Belize which speak of “Restriction on powers of Senate as to money Bills” and “Restriction on powers of Senate as to Bills other than money Bills”.
In 2011 there was an outcry for a 13th Senator to be installed in the hopes that the Senate would be more autonomous. The provision for that act had already passed through the House and the Senate and all that was left was for it to be assented by the Governor General. However, it was never sent to the Governor General since the Prime Minister held it back, saying that he “had a change of heart” on the issue of the 13th senator. But even should the 13th Senator be established, somehow the Senate would remain a rubber stamp for money matters. Chapter 79 of the Constitution ends by saying that should a bill other than a money bill be rejected by the senate, “…that Bill shall, on its rejection for the second time by the Senate, unless the House of Representatives otherwise resolves, be presented to the Governor General for assent notwithstanding that the Senate has not consented to the Bill”