Beyond its ongoing monitoring mission, the Social Guard is currently committed to two speical projects.
1. The Ministerial Legislation Committee Campaign
The MLC convenes every Sunday, and decides which private bills about to be presented in Parliament should be supported by the government. In fact, it is a form of executive stranglehold on the legislative branch, since most proposals which are not supported, are promptly dropped by the MP's (a natural result, considering the fact that the Israeli coalition now holds 94 out of 120 MP's, with a 98-99% level of voting adherence to government policy). And yet, in spite of the committee's tremendous power, few citizens are aware of its role.
The Ministerial Legislation Committee is indeed a black hole as far as our democracy is concerned – its meetings are closed to the public, not even the MP who's bill is discussed is entitled to be present. No protocol is published, and even the names of the ministers who voted, and how they voted, remain a mystery.
Over the past months, since its creation actually, the Social Guard has tried to obtain these protocols, and increase public awareness. Our application to the PM's office RTI officer has yielded no satisfactory reply.
Thus, we are now preparing a lawsuit, which will be presented to the Israeli High Court of Justice or to the Court for Administrative affairs. In this campaign we have joined forces with the Workshop for Public Awareness and the Movement for Freedom of Information.
- 2. The Social Index
The social index created by the Social Guard is a tool which enables citizens to follow the actual activity of their representatives. Instead of dealing with the foggy realm of statements and promises, the index is based on each MP's votes on social and economic legislation. We consider the index an important contribution to Israeli citizenship, helping people make more informed decisions during primary and national elections. We also hope, that the index will influence our MPs in the long run, and make them aware of the increased accountability it promotes.
Our first index was based on 168 of the 600 bills (!) voted on during the 2011/2012 winter session. Intense deliberation was held about each and every bill – Does it bear on social and economic issues? How important is it? To what extent do we support it? We decided to include any bill which affects the distribution and allocation of resources, as well as laws which empower citizens and support participatory democracy.
Once the laws were chosen, they were fed into the Open Knesset computerized platform, which automatically determined each MK's rating according to the official voting data published by the Parliament's official website. The full list of bills included in the index was made accessible to the public on the Open Knesset website (http://oknesset.org/).
Upon its publication the Social Index created a great stir – in the media, and among politicians as well as social activists, who consider it a crucial tool for their work.
We are currently updating the index, based on the MPs' performance during the Spring session. This is intense work, which requires going into great detail about each and every law. It is our aim, at this stage, to create an internet-based system which will enable more people to participate in rating the laws chosen for the index.