Kenya Parliamentary Service Commission: Benchmarking Legislative Management Models in the United States
In April, SUNY/CID’s Parliamentary Strengthening Program, jointly funded by USAID and DFID, sponsored honorable Members and Senators of the Kenyan Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) as they visited the Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina state legislatures as well as the US Congress. The delegation consisted of the Hon. Justin Muturi and the following PSC Members: Sen. Beth Mugo, Vice Chairperson of the PSC; Hon. Adan Keynan; Sen. David Musila; Hon. Jimmy Angwenyi; Sen. Sammy Leshore; Hon. Regina Chang’orok Nyeris; Hon. Gladys Wanga; Hon. Dr. Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim; Dr. Lonah Mutoro Mumelo; and Mr. Jeremiah Nyegenye, Secretary to the Commission. They were accompanied by staff of the Parliamentary Service Commission and Hon. Donald Schneider, retired Clerk of the Wisconsin State Senate.
Over the course of ten days, members of the Parliamentary Service Commission were exposed to various models for managing the administrative functions of a bicameral legislature. SUNY/CID chose models similar to Kenya’s newly established Commission, as well as alternative models in which legislative management is ‘devolved’ to each house.
Members began their visit in Connecticut where the delegation toured the House Chambers, met with the Clerks of both houses, and with legislative leaders including the Executive Director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Management and his staff. The delegation learned about the Joint Committee’s responsibility for managing a wide range of administration functions designed to improve legislative processes.
Members were especially intrigued by the notion of part-time legislatures, and asked the House Republican leader how effective such institutions were. He replied by acknowledging the difficulty of balancing a career with his duties as a legislator. However, he also affirmed his belief in the utility of a part-time legislature, saying it is important for members to live and work in their districts.
The next stop on the visit was the ‘first’ state, Delaware. Members spent the day with the Clerk of the House and his staff, the Secretary of the Senate and his staff, as well as observing the legislature in session. Following the tour, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro tem both invited the delegation to attend a plenary session where they were warmly greeted by their colleagues from Delaware. During the course of the day, the PSC studied the Legislature’s distinctive 10-member joint House/Senate leadership committee, the Legislative Council, responsible for certain high appointments. Every year, the chair of the council alternates between the Speaker of the House and President Pro tempore of the Senate, however, the Council meets infrequently, and each house is responsible for its own administration under its own leadership.
Members next visited the National Capitol, where they had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), who discussed their tenure as state legislators and the transition to Congress. The PSC was especially interested to learn about district offices, resource allocations to Members of Congress, and constituent relationship building. The delegation also met with the Administrative Office of the United States Courts where they learned more about the U.S. judicial model and the rigorous system of self-discipline to which its judges are subjected. After that, the PSC had time for one last meeting with Director of the Wisconsin Federal-State Relations office.
The delegation traveled on to Richmond, Virginia and then Raleigh, North Carolina. Virginia served as an example of the total bicameral devolution of administrative functions, while North Carolina provided the archetype of a dormant legislative council. In Virginia, the delegation observed that while the two houses are very independent, the Clerks’ offices work closely together.
The North Carolina Legislative Services Commission has equal representation and joint leadership from both houses. The delegation was surprised to learn that the commission, which does not have a set meeting schedule but meets at the call of the co-chairs, has not met since 1996. When the Kenyan delegation inquired as to how the legislature could function under such conditions, they discovered that when the Commission is not in session it does have a fully staffed nonpartisan office under the supervision of an official accountable to the leadership of both houses.
The Members of the Parliamentary Service Commission came away with a rich array of models and practices. The Speaker of the National Assembly and Chair of the PSC, Hon. Justin Muturi, remarked that he and his team would leave the US having met the objectives of their visit and will explore ways to incorporate lessons learned into their work.
Posted June 03, 2014