statue of lady liberty holding the scales of justice

The decree-law is a normative act governed by art. 77 of our Constitution, which in some ways acts as an “alternative” to state law. Let’s find out more.

What is the decree law

The decree-law is a provision of a temporary nature, which is deliberated by the Government (and issued by the President of the Republic) in extraordinary cases of necessity and urgency .

The decree law comes into force, with the force of law (1), just published in the Official Gazette (without waiting for the “canons” 15 days of vacatio ) and has a validity of 60 days , after which automatically lapses – with effect ex tunc – if in the meantime it is not converted into law by Parliament. 

In order to protect the legal relationships that may have arisen on the basis of the provisions contained in a decree that has not been converted, the Chambers can deliberate laws that preserve certain effects of the latter (see Article 77, paragraph 3 of the Constitution).

It should finally be remembered that the second part of the Doctrine could not be regulated by decree-law the matters referred to in art. 72, paragraph 4 of the Constitution, for which the so-called “reserve of assembly” is envisaged.

Emergency decree: abuse and distortion

Unfortunately, in republican practice, the use of the decree law has become almost the rule over the years, rather than the exception. Often, governments have used this tool even in the absence of obvious assumptions of necessity and urgency. 

Another “aberration” of the legislative decree is then represented by the practice of reiteration : the custom, that is, by the Government to repeatedly re- decree-lawfrom the virtually identical content – with the exception of minimal variations – to those that are about to expire or have just expired, so that the term of sixty days will elapse again for their conversion. In the 90s, even, there were cases of decrees re-proposed for more than 20 consecutive times, without ever being converted into law! Until, in 1996, sentence no. 360 of the Constitutional Court declared this practice illegitimate. 

On the other hand it is also true that the “elefantiache” times of the Italian Parliament seem sometimes to want to paralyze political activity for entire legislatures. It is indeed to remedy the exhausting blackberries of the parliamentary legislative process that is often played by the jokerof the law decree. Thus ending, as in a vicious circle, to make the time of ordinary lawmaking even longer, engulfed by the activities of discussing and approving all-encompassing large decrees.

Not to be confused with the legislative decree …

Sometimes, in the spoken language, it can happen to make confusion between the decree and the legislative decree – which represents, instead, a different explanation of the normative power attributed to the Government.