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Committees

The wide variety and sheer amount of political work to be performed requires a certain division of labour. For this reason, the Landtag calls specialist committees into being at the beginning of each legislative term.  As a rule, the committee sessions are open to the public.

The most potent "weapon" of parliamentary control is the right to call an Committee of Inquiry into being. These committees have the task of looking into matters whose clarification is in public interest. The Committees of Inquiry can collect evidence - just like a court in criminal proceedings - in particular by hearing witnesses. These committees generally convene in public session. A Committee of Inquiry must be set up whenever one-fifth of the members of the Landtag so demand. This also means that a minority in the Landtag is able to make use of this monitoring instrument.

The Landtag can also demand that the Prime Minister or individual Ministers appear before the Landtag or its committees and answer for his, her or their actions; the Landtag has the further possibility of disapproving of the policy in question and can even with draw its confidence from the Prime Minister or his Ministers. In the latter event, the Prime Minister or Minister concerned must resign.

In order to prepare decisions on wide-ranging and important matters, the Landtag can also set up so-called Study Commissions. Persons who are not members of the parliament may also serve on these commissions. Examples from the 12th and 13th legislative period are the Study Commissions on Constitutional Reform, on Parliamentary Reform, and on Reform of Public Administration.


Council of Elders

As a central coordination and steering committee, the Council of Elders manages the internal affairs of the Landtag. It is composed of the President, the Vice-Presidents and members of the Landtag appointed by the parliamentary groups in proportion to their size.

The Council ensures that agreement is reached among the parliamentary groups, for instance on the Landtag's agenda for plenary sessions and on the speaking time for every item on it. Furthermore, the Council of Elders assists the President in the performance of his duties concerning internal affairs of the Landtag.


Petition Committee and Ombudsman

Both the Basic Law (i.e. the federal constitution) and the Constitution of Rhineland-Palatinate give every individual the right to address written requests and complaints to the appropiate agencies and directly to the Parliament by submitting petitions. The Landtag sets up a Petition Committee that deals with the petitions submitted to the Landtag. The Petition Committee is supported by the  Ombudsman (Bürgerbeauftragter). Rhineland-Palatinate has had an Ombudsman since 1974. His job is to strengthen the position of the individual in his dealings with authorities. Primarily he tries to arrive at agreeable solutions in conjunction with the responsible authorities. The Ombudsman informs the Petition Committee wether such a solution is achieved. If not, the decision then lies with the Petition Committee, the Ombudsman proposing the method of solving the problem.

The Ombudsman is in a strong position. As the Petition Committee's permanent authorised agent, he is by law entitled to request information, access to files and general access. People can even turn directly to the Ombudsman with their requests and complaints.

The institution of the Ombudsman has provided the citizens with considerable assistance in his dealings with authorities. In two-thirds of the cases he could help (by mediation or by providing information, etc.).


Commissioner for Data Protection

With information technology comes the risk of encroachment upon the rights and freedom of the individual. The Rhineland-Palatinate Landtag was one of the first parliaments to adopt data protection legislation in 1974. In 1991, the position of  Commissioner for Data Protection (Landesbeauftragter für den Datenschutz) was created.

The Commissioner for Data Protection monitors observance of the regulations of the Data Protection Act, informs the competent supervisory authorities about violation, and submits proposals on the improvement of the data protection system. The Commissioner for Data Protection has an eight-year term of office.

A Commission made up of seven Landtag-appointed members and one Land government-appointed member assists the Commissioner for Data Protection in the performance of his duties.

 
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