After the referendums, petitions could also be digitized

After the referendums, petitions could also be digitized

After the referendums

The amendment to the Senate regulation presented by Nannicini (PD) provides for an institutional platform and precise constraints based on the signatures collected: over 40 thousand clicks on the agenda scheduled in the classroom

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash Le petitions are provided for in Article 50 of the Constitution. But if until 1971 the regulations of the Chamber and Senate guaranteed that the requests received by the citizens were addressed in the committees, for half a century now, after the reform of those regulations, the institute has in fact become residual. A few hundred petitions a year reach the Houses, especially the Senate, and none of these actually enjoy any following in any committee. In Germany, proposals of this type are forty times higher. In short, petitions are signed on principle, knowing full well that the legislator will not give them any follow-up. They serve at best to make news (often not even that anymore), to stimulate debate and, perhaps, to submit the topic to some parliamentarian, hoping for a bill. They have lost their original mission.

Something could change. In a season that sees the possibility of subscribing to the referendum proposals also digitally through the Spid public digital identity system, the electronic identity card and other systems, a proposal to amend the regulation of Palazzo Madama, signed by Senator Tommaso Nannicini (Democratic Party) and prepared together with the Volare association in particular by Giuseppina D'Auria, lawyer and member of the association's digital democracy group, and Stefano Consonni, coordinator of the group, aims to digitize the old and somewhat dusty instrument as well of the petition.

New life to petitions

For years associated with the requests, perhaps respectable but automatically without a future, of some volunteers who stopped us on the street raising awareness about this or that cause. Or, thanks to platforms such as, moved online but never institutionalized: the proposals signed on that type of site - in the case of Change, a US “b-corp” - have no direct relationship with the institutions. Those platforms, like the volunteer at the banquet, are only intermediaries who then, in paper format or via e-mail, must deliver the signatures to the Chambers. Without any guarantee that they schedule the proposal or, to be honest, that at least verify the formal correctness of what was presented. On the other hand, there is no obligation to be examined by the Commissions nor a fixed periodicity to report to the Assemblies.

Again: good stuff for the debate, not to produce legislative consequences as it happens in the United Kingdom , whose system was used as a model for the proposed changes. In fact, in Great Britain there is a dedicated platform, a threshold of 10 thousand signatures, a dedicated commission and a system of responses from the government (at the moment it reports that the government has responded to 544 and that 93 are under discussion in the House of Commons). Between 2017 and 2019, petitions submitted by British citizens were over 33,000 and involved nearly 17 million signatories. In Italy, in the same period, 1,688 petitions were delivered to the Senate and 1,384 to the Chamber. Only that in the first case feedback or even a parliamentary follow-up was often guaranteed, in the second they remained a dead letter.

The idea of ​​modifying the regulation illustrated by Nannicini in an event in the Senate consists instead in revising the articles 140 and 141 and in the introduction of article 140-bis. In a nutshell: ensure that petitions with at least 20,000 signatures are automatically assigned to the competent committee and a rapporteur (unless there is a relevant bill, in which case the proposal would be discussed jointly); that those that have collected between 20 and 40 thousand signatures, on the other hand, end with a report presented to the Assembly or a resolution, in both cases within 90 days; finally that those over 40 thousand signatures are officially registered on the agenda of the Assembly

The changes aim to provide citizens with the guarantee that they will be discussed in the classroom - obviously without providing for any constraint on the fact that that discussion must produce some measure. All this after giving citizens the opportunity to sign even through an institutional digital platform where they can publish, consult and sign all petitions with Spid or other recognized authentication tools: "The creation of a dedicated platform, further simplifying the procedure of presentation, would be able to encourage the exercise of the law, as has happened for the European Union and some European states, which for years have made use of a special internet portal for the presentation and handling of petitions. The platform is also suitable for making petitions submitted searchable and available for the adhesion of other citizens ", reads the proposed amendment. The petitions would in fact remain available for consultation and signing for 180 days.

Recover the centrality of the institution of the petition - even foreseen already in the Albertine Statute of 1848 - taking inspiration from the best European models, institutionalizing it and therefore subtracting it from the various private platforms not always transparent, aligning with the "upgrade" of popular political participation systems linked to referendum questions: these are the objectives of the project. “Citizens have shown that they have a great need to participate - explains Consonni to Wired Italia - just think that in 2019 nine million people used to propose or sign proposals and appeals. This means that there is an empty space that Parliament must have the opportunity to regain ". Also because the Constitution provides for it.

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