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On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Exemption of Home Owners from Land Tax (51 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to exempt home owners from the obligation to pay land tax on the land in the use of the user of the land to the extent of 0.15 ha in cities, cities without municipal status, towns or small towns and up to 2.0 ha in other places on the condition that the residence of the taxpayer is in a residential building located on such land according to the data on the place of residence entered in the population register. The Act is planned to enter into force on 1 January 2013. The Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 51 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 41 members voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Draft Resolution on granting of a state guarantee for the loan between the European Investment Bank and the Foundation North-Estonia Regional Hospital (49 OE), submitted by the Government, was concluded. According to the Draft Resolution, the state will grant a guarantee to the loan in the amount of 43 500 000 euro taken by the North-Estonia Regional Hospital from the European Investment Bank. The loan is intended for construction of the X-section and reconstruction and extension of the C- and pathology section and financing of a medical equipment purchase project of the North-Estonia Regional Hospital. According to the Draft Resolution, the amount of the state guarantee is 52 200 000 euro and the premium for it is 0.16% on the average loan balance per year for every calendar year of the period of validity of the state guarantee. The guarantee agreement will be in force as of entry into the agreement until the end of 2035. The Draft Resolution was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Paying Authorities and Electronic Money Institutions Act and Associated Acts and the Investment Funds Act (45 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The main aim of the Bill is to update the regulation of the issue and use of electronic money and at the same time to harmonise it with European Union directives. Changes are made to Estonian law so as to harmonise the requirements for the activities of electronic money institutions and other electronic money issuers; simplify the definition of electronic money and make it more neutral; establish a new more liberal framework of prudential requirements for electronic money institutions and specify the bases of issue and redemption of electronic money according to which consumers will have an enhanced right to exchange electronic money for real money at any time. In practice, electronic money or e-money services or products generally mean multi-purpose electronic payment instruments which are mainly used for everyday payments of small value e.g. upon payment for bus tickets, parking fees, newspapers, cigarettes, etc. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act (39 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill provides a reform of the system of tax differentiation of the liquid fuel marked with a fiscal marker by offering direct payments in certain fields. The amendment of the Act is planned in two stages. With this Bill, the use of the liquid fuel marked with a fiscal marker will be terminated in stationary motors and extraction, forestry and construction works. The amendment will enter into force on 1 January 2012. The second stage will see implementation of payment schemes or direct payments also to the remaining beneficiary fields: carriage of passengers and goods by rail, shipping traffic, heat and energy production and agriculture. The initiator stated that proposals for the second stage are planned to be submitted during 2012. The aims of amending the Act are to foster supporting based on the needs and expediency, reduction of administrative costs and administrative burden, increase of the state budget revenues and decrease of fraud. The Estonian Centre Party Faction and the Social Democratic Party Faction moved to reject this Bill at the first reading. 48 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 41 members voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (40 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to reduce the income tax rate to 20% instead of the current 21% and this provision is planned to enter into force as of 2015. Secondly, the total amount of deductions allowed from the income of natural persons is intended to be restricted to 1920 instead of 3196. Thirdly, professional formal education should no longer be treated as a fringe benefit in employment and service relationships. Fourthly, a special procedure for transfer of the cutting right and timber cut will be created by which natural persons will be able to deduct from the income received from the transfer the forest management costs incurred within the period of up to three years as of the year of receipt of the income from transfer of the cutting right and timber cut. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (42 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the Bill, the excise duty rate on tobacco products will be raised by 10% as of 2013. The Bill was prepared with the aim of increasing state budget revenues and bringing them closer to the minimum European Union tobacco excise duty rate which will enter into force in 2014. Estonia has been granted a transition period until 31 December 2017 for implementation of the minimum rate which will enter into force in 2014. At the same time, raising of the excise duty rate on tobacco products serves the objectives of health protection. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Ratification of the 2006 International Tropical Timber Agreement (26 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. Upon ratification of the Agreement, Estonia will become a member of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). As no tropical timber grows in Estonia, Estonia will become a consumer member. ITTO was established by the Tropical Timber Agreement of 1983 (Article 3(1)) and continues in being for the purposes of administering the provisions and supervising the operation of this Agreement. Ratification of the Agreement will grant to Estonia full powers to participate and vote at the meetings of the ITTO Council and a good opportunity to engage in close cooperation on an equal basis within the framework of other Rio de Janeiro conventions (the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change) which aim at a further strengthening of environmental protection and sustainable development. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act and Other Associated Acts (43 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to transpose into national law the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union, providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. The Directive establishes a general prohibition on the employment of third-country nationals who do not have a legal basis to stay in the European Union, and it also establishes sanctions against employers who infringe that prohibition. The Bill provides a pecuniary punishment or up to 3 years’ imprisonment for allowing illegal employment for an alien with no legal basis to stay in Estonia. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act, the State Fees Act and the Ports Act (25 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments specify the maritime safety requirements arising from European Union law and the liability in the event of violation of the Act. Passing of the Act will help enhance marine safety through further development of the vessel traffic monitoring and information system and improvement of the port State control system in member states and in the European Union as a whole. In comparison to the Acts which are currently in force, the informing obligations imposed on shipowners will remain essentially the same. As a measure to reduce the administrative burden, the Act contains provisions according to which it will be possible to apply for release from the obligation to submit a notification of dangerous cargo and arrival to port to the Maritime Administration for ships engaged in a regular service. For shipowners and ship agents, the administrative burden will increase as the obligation to notify of the actual time when a ship enters and leaves the port will be added. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Railways Act (27 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the Bill, the procedure for obtaining the train driver’s licence is changed pursuant to a European Union directive. According to the procedure, a train driver will have to obtain a train driver’s licence from a competent authority, attesting to the train driver’s compliance with general conditions, and a certificate granting the train driver entitlements to drive from the railway undertaking employing the driver. This will also improve internal cooperation in the EU regarding the recognition of train drivers because when a uniform format of train driver’s licence is implemented it will be easier for train drivers to go to work in another member state. Railway traffic safety will also improve because, upon issue of certificates to train drivers, railway undertakings can directly check the existence of the competence necessary for the work of train drivers and, if a problem emerges, quickly take necessary measures (organisation of training, suspension of the validity of the certificate). The Bill also amends the provisions concerning railway traffic safety by adding the obligation to include in the railway traffic register the data concerning the entity who maintains the rolling stock which will enable to carry out more specific inspection of the maintenance works. Also, measures for ensuring unrestricted visibility in the ground area are improved and the relevant provisions concerning the necessary elements of a misdemeanour are amended. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
 
At today’s Question Time of the Riigikogu, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip answered Member of the Riigikogu Heljo Pikhof’s question about the protection of children, Jaak Allik’s question about the financing of culture and Jevgeni Ossinovski’s question about unemployment in Ida-Virumaa.
 
The Minister of Finance Jürgen Ligi answered Kadri Simson’s question about the revenue base of local governments and Inara Luigas’ question about restrictions on the assumption of obligations by local governments.
 
The Minister of Justice Kristen Michal answered Neeme Suur’s question about implementation of the Emergency Act.
 
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
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