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I. Constitutional Requirements and the Role of the Norwegian Parliament
The Norwegian Parliament (the name of which is the Storting) is the legislative body in Norway. It is a unicameral legislature with 169 members. The Norwegian people are represented through it. It passes legislation that is subsequently signed by the King and enacted in his name. In addition, the Parliament is responsible for:
- passing and revoking laws, issuing taxes, fees, duties, and other public debts for the upcoming year;
- taking out state loans;
- overseeing the Norwegian monetary system;
- granting funds that are necessary to meet the financial obligations of the state;
- determining the royal endowment;
- archiving state papers;
- announcing sanctions and treaties that the King has entered into with other states;
- calling for parliamentary hearings;
- appointing five accountants who shall review the state finances annually and announce extracts from them to be published; [and]
- choosing a person (not a member of the Norwegian Parliament) to oversee public administration.
The Constitution provides that, during enemy fire, or because of contagious diseases, the Parliament may meet at another place than its seat (Oslo). The Constitution includes no other special rules during times of emergency. However, as stipulated in the Norwegian Constitution, half of the total members of parliament must always be present to vote. Currently that means that, at any time, at least 85 of 169 members must be present for the Parliament to hold a vote. For an amendment to the Constitution to pass, two-thirds of the members must be present. Half of the members present must vote in favor for a law or measure to pass. In addition to the rules set out in the Norwegian Constitution, the Norwegian Parliament’s procedures are also governed by the Storting Rules of Procedure (Stortingets forretningsorden). For example, Section 5 provides that any leave of absence should be presented to the Presidum (President of the Parliament), while Section 8 provides for what happens when the President and Vice Presidents of the Parliament are absent for shorter or longer periods time.
II. Measures to Limit COVID-19 Spread
The Norwegian Parliament has adopted a number of measures during the month of March 2020 aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. For example, as of March 12, 2020, the Parliament has reduced the number of members who may be present in the Storting to vote to the 85-member minimum requirement. The Parliament has also reduced the number of issues that it will decide by vote in the chamber during March and April 2020, limiting it to only issues that must be resolved urgently. The President of the Storting, similar to the US Speaker of the House, will determine what issues are urgent after consulting and discussing with the party leadership. During the week of March 16 to March 22, 2020, the Parliament met three times, on March 16th and March 19th, and in an extra Saturday session on March 21st. During the extra session, the Parliament met to adopt the “Corona Act,” an enabling act intended to give the government (cabinet) powers that are ordinarily reserved for the Parliament. The Parliament met once during the week of March 23 to March 29, 2020, on March 24th, to adopt the Corona Act in a second reading. The amended version of the act gives the Norwegian government emergency powers that are normally reserved for the Parliament. The original version of the Corona Act was criticized as giving the Norwegian government more powers than it would have in a time of war. The version that passed gives the Norwegian Government power to pass laws without the Parliament for one month, significantly shorter than the proposed six months. Moreover, one-third of Parliament members may come together and repeal any law passed by the government under the authority of the Corona Act.
In addition, the Norwegian Parliament has temporarily suspended the Storting Rules of Procedure on Standing Committee meetings, limited the number of standing committee meetings, encouraged digital solutions, and enabled members to attend meetings virtually rather than in person. Committee voting and discussions can thus take place using electronic means of communication, ”such as telephone or Skype,” although the Parliament has not specified which digital platform it uses. Although no law provides information with regard to the operation of individual members’ offices, it seems likely that they are choosing to operate in a fashion similar to the standing committees. In a direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Parliament has also created a special committee for COVID-19 issues that will meet weekly, and which includes members from all nine parliamentary parties.
The Norwegian Parliament has also taken steps to limit visitors in its building, and canceled all public guided tours (including group and class tours) of the Parliament. All meetings in the chamber continue to be live-streamed online on the Parliament website.
III. Measures to Limit Spread of COVID-19 Among Cabinet Members
As of March 23, 2020, Prime Minister Erna Solberg had not been tested for COVID-19. Currently, the government is meeting more often than it usually does. Usually it meets once a week, but last week, it met on the 13th, 15th, 18th, and 20th of March. However, reportedly, not everyone meets in person, as some members join the meetings via video link.
As of March 23, 2020, one member of Erna Solberg’s cabinet, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, as well as two staffers (statssekreterær), have confirmed COVID-19 infections.
Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Specialist
 Id. § 57.
 Id. § 49.
 Id. §§ 77 & 81.
 Id. § 75.
 Id. § 68.
 Id. § 73.
 Id. § 57.
 Id. § 73.
 Id. § 5.
 Id. § 8.
 Press Release Stortinget, Stortinget har vedtatt særskilt komité (Mar. 17, 2020), https://perma.cc/GX4R-MJWV. Press Release Stortinget, Stortinget begrenser møtevirksomheten (Mar. 12, 2020), https://perma.cc/D5MK-TSEH.
 Press Release Stortinget, Stortinget begrenser møtevirksomheten, supra note 15.
 Stortignet, Midlertidig lov om forskriftshjemmel for å avhjelpe konsekvenser av utbrudd av Covid-19 mv. (koronaloven) (undated), https://perma.cc/97ZG-5DDG; see also Press Release, Stortinget, The Storting Is Considering an Enabling Act (Mar. 20, 2020), https://perma.cc/HEX6-YSR7.
 Stortingsmøter, Stortinget, https://perma.cc/8QKU-7KA5; Midlertidig lov om forskriftshjemmel for å avhjelpe konsekvenser av utbrudd av Covid-19 mv. (koronaloven), https://perma.cc/WW4W-XM43. ; Press Release Stortinget, Koronaloven (Mar. 24, 2020), https://perma.cc/FQB2-QGZM.
 Vurderinger og innspill til Prop. 56 L (Mar. 20, 2020), https://perma.cc/5V56-W4CD; see also commentary on the proposal at Adele Matheson Mestad, Demokrati i karantene?, Rett24.no (Mar. 22, 2020), https://perma.cc/D2H6-5CJQ.
 Bergens Tidenden (editorial desk) , Kriseloven er udemokratisk og overilt, Bergens Tidende (Mar. 19, 2020), https://perma.cc/BG5C-HZP4; see also Sylo Taraku, Vi må være på vakt mot både koronaviruset og koronalover, Aftenposten (Mar. 21, 2020), https://perma.cc/3Y33-ENQ5.
 Stortignet, Midlertidig lov om forskriftshjemmel for å avhjelpe konsekvenser av utbrudd av Covid-19 mv. (koronaloven), supra note 19.
 Press Release Stortinget, Stortinget begrenser møtevirksomheten, supra note 18; see also Press Release Stortinget, New Working Procedures for the Standing Committees During the COVID-19 Outbreak (last updated Mar. 19, 2020), https://perma.cc/YE7E-D76R.
 Press Release Stortinget, New Working Procedures for the Standing Committees During the COVID-19 Outbreak, supra note 25.
 Jan Gunnar Furuly, Christian Sørgjerd, and Solveig Ruud, Både statssekretærer og en statsråd er smittet. Men statsminister Solberg har ikke testet seg, Aftenposten (Mar. 23, 2020), https://perma.cc/2QT4-26SL.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020