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The Riigikogu passed 10 Acts:

The Act on Amendments to the Commercial Code and Other Associated Acts (307 SE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and the Estonian Reform Party Faction, was passed with 71 votes in favour. The drafting of the Act was motivated by changes in the regulation concerning the processing of the commercial register and the land register, and implementation of the new processing software of the commercial register, since the currently used software platform has become technologically outdated by now. In addition, the regulation has been changed as regards the connection between registration departments and their territorial jurisdictions, and viewing the data of the commercial register. Under the new regulation, registration departments have been granted a possibility to process petitions for an entry which have been submitted to other departments and to make entries on registry cards the maintenance of which is in the competence of another registration department. The Act enters into force on the day following the day of publication in the Riigi Teataja; clause 1 36) and § 4 enter into force on 1 January 2013.

The Act on Amendments to the Bar Association Act and Other Acts (273 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 72 votes in favour. In view of the continuing growth of the number of membership of the Bar Association and the situation where the members of the Estonian Bar Association now outnumber the total number of Estonian judges, prosecutors, notaries, bailiffs and trustees in bankruptcy, the Act aims to amend the Bar Association Act in regard to the organisational structure of the Bar Association so that it would better meet the changed needs, take into account the further development of the organisation and allow for relevant and timely action. At the same time, an enhanced cooperation of advocates and managers of law offices in the realisation of common interests and goals is needed. According to the amendments, the current three-grade structure of the Bar Association is replaced by a two-grade structure and the status of the clerk of an advocate is eliminated. The initiator is of the opinion that as there is no great difference any more between the competence of the senior clerk of sworn advocate and the clerk of sworn advocate, the three-grade membership pattern has no practical importance in the professional activities of advocates, and when the Act enters into force, clerks of sworn advocates and sworn advocates will be members of the Bar Association. The members of the Bar Association acting as senior clerks of sworn advocates at present will have to pass the examination of a sworn advocate within five years as of the entry into force of this Act. If they fail to pass the examination of sworn advocate, they will become clerks of sworn advocates. This Act enters into force on 1 March 2013; §§ 3 and 7 enter into force on 1 January 2013.

The Act on Amendments to the Marital Property Register Act, the Notary Fees Act and the Civil Status Acts Act (308 SE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and the Estonian Reform Party Faction, was passed with 68 votes in favour. The aim of the amendments is to create preconditions for transition to an electronic marital property register, implementation of electronic registry cards and files, and simplifying viewing the data entered in the marital property register. To a great part, the Act enters into force on 1 January 2013.

The Act on Amendments to the Imprisonment Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (264 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 64 votes in favour. The amendments are intended to resolve the issues that have arisen in practice in execution of imprisonment and the organisation of prison service and to ensure better control over convicted offenders who are subjected under the supervision of a probation supervisor. The Imprisonment Act is amended with regard to the regulation concerning the cases in which a prison has to refuse to allow long- or short term visits to a prisoner. It establishes a possibility to impose an electronic surveillance device which is attached to the leg of the prisoner as an additional guarantee to a prisoner who is allowed to move around outside the prison in connection with studying, working and other similar activities. Also, provisions are added which allow prison service officers to react to violations of law which are directed against the prison but are committed outside the boundaries of the prison. In addition, more specified and thorough requirements for the background check and medical examination of prison officers are provided, and several other amendments are made. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2013; clause 1 56) and § 2 enter into force on 1 April 2013.

The Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and Other Associated Acts (288 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 52 votes in favour. The amendments are due to the need to bring the relevant Acts into conformity with EU law with the aim of reinforcing the protection of experimental animals used for scientific or educational purposes and reducing the suffering of animals before slaughter in the meat industry by improving the state of the art of the meat industry, and harmonising the conditions of competition for them at European level. The Act specifies the requirements for the religious slaughter of animals which affects religious associations who carry out the slaughtering of animals for their members according to the religious tradition. In addition to the Animal Protection Act, it amends the Farm Animals Breeding Act, the Veterinary Supervision over Trade in Animals and Animal Products and the Import and Export Thereof Act and the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act. One member of the Riigikogu voted against the Act. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2013.

The Act on Amendments to the Public Information Act (263 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 59 votes in favour. The amendments are intended to improve the legal order of Estonia in view of the infringements pointed out by the European Commission. In the opinion of the Commission, in Estonia, the rights related to the re-use of public information are not guaranteed or the solutions laid down in law are not specified with sufficient legal clarity. The purpose of the amendments is to provide more clearly the rules on the re-use of public sector information in the legal order of Estonia and to thereby stimulate the creation of new products and services by the private sector. In the future, holders of information may not establish exclusive arrangements for re-use of information unless it is justified in the public interest. The validity of the reason for granting such an exclusive right shall be reviewed every three years. The aim of the provision is to regulate a situation where the monopoly of holding of information and release of information has been transferred to a third person who is not a holder of information. The Act is also intended to establish a regulation whereby the re-use of documents would be open to all potential actors in the market, even if one or more market players already exploit added-value products based on these documents.

The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (280 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 50 votes in favour. The purpose of the amendments is to distribute the 10% rise of the excise duty rate on cigarettes which had been planned for 2013 to two years in order to manage the risks of the secret market resulting from the price rise. In 2013 and 2014, the excise duty on cigarettes will be increased by a total of approximately 12% in order to achieve the minimum rate of EUR 90 per 1000 cigarettes due to enter into force in the European Union in 2014. Thus, the 10% rise of the excise duty on cigarettes in 2013 will be replaced by 6% excise rises both in 2013 and 2014. Clauses 1 1) and 3) of the Act enter into force on 1 January 2013; clauses 1 2) and 4) enter into force on 1 January 2014.

The Act on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (282 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 47 votes in favour. The aim of the amendments is to change the maximum rates of the natural resource charges in order to enable, through changing the charge rates, more efficient use of natural resources, and to value water resources. According to the amendments, the rate of the environmental charge payable upon disposal of oil shale residue will be increased by 20% per year as of 1 April 2013, on the model of the charge rates for oil shale fly ash and semi-coke which will rise by 20% per year until 2015 according to the Act which is currently in force. The aim is, by raising the pollution charge rate, to reduce the dumping of oil shale residue and to motivate undertakings to recycle it. According to the Act which is currently in force, the rate of the charge for dumping oil shale residue has not changed since 2009 and it has stayed at 0.76 €/t. Changing the maximum rates of water abstraction charge will create an opportunity to enhance the valuing and sustainable use of the water resource by planning an annual rise of the charge rates in order to achieve the charge rate similar to the rates of the charges relating to the groundwater and surface water. 19 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the State Budget of 2012 Act (298 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 49 votes in favour. The amendments concern the budget of the areas of government of ministries and the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, without changing the total budget volume. The Act is amended by adding a section which grants the Government the authority to make arrangements for purposeful use of the funds received from the sale of permitted greenhouse gas emission units by auction. The section is added into the text because early auctions of the European Union Emissions Trading System for the period 2013–2020 will be launched as soon as at the end of 2012, and not in 2013 as originally planned. 3 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and one member of the Riigikogu abstained. The Act enters into force on the day following publication in the Riigi Teataja.

The Act on Amendments to the Defence Forces Organisation Act and the Defence Forces Service Act Implementation Act (256 SE), initiated by the Government, with which the Defence Forces are tasked with the duty to provide personal protection, the right to use the Defence Forces in assisting the police without the right to use force is provided and the structure of the Defence Forces is changed and a new structural unit in the immediate subordination of the Commander of the Defence Forces is established – the Estonian contingent of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence which will perform the tasks of the Estonian contingent of the Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence that is currently a subunit of the Headquarters and Signal Battalion, was passed with 56 votes in favour. One member of the Riigikogu voted against the Act. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2013; clause 1 3) and § 2 enter into force on 1 April 2013.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the State Legal Aid Act (271 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 25 voted against. As the Bill was not supported by the Riigikogu, it was dropped from the legislative proceeding.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second reading of the Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act Exempting Home Owners from Land Tax and Amendments to the Land Tax Act and the Income Tax Act (299 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The Bill is connected with the amendments to the Land Tax Act passed on 16 June 2011, according to which, as of 1 January 2013, the owner of the land or, in certain cases, the user of the land is exempt from payment of land tax on a land unit used as residential land occupied by buildings or as profit yielding land. The scope of the exemption provided for in the Land Tax Act is connected with land parcels located within yards, as regards profit yielding land. Upon application of the abovementioned tax exemption, the revenue received by local governments from land tax will be reduced. On the basis of the above, the rate of the income tax received by local governments will be raised with the Bill to the extent that would cover the loss of revenue by local governments due to the land tax exemption. In addition, the state will be exempt from payment of land tax on land used as land for non-residential constructions, the regulation is amended by adding provisions concerning the calculation of the land tax exemption in the case when the boundary of a high density area or the division line of a settlement unit passes through a cadastral unit, and the procedure for calculating the land tax exemption and incentive is specified. Also, a land tax information system will be established which will serve as the Government-established database maintained for the calculation of land tax. The Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of this Bill. 16 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 32 voted against. As the motion to suspend was not supported, the Bill was sent to the third reading.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act and Other Associated Acts (236 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to establish the needs-based study allowance of the student which will have to ensure equal access opportunities to higher education. The aim is to support students in a worse socio-economic situation in the completion of the study load subject to completion according to the curriculum and this would enable students matriculated as of 2013/2014 to study without reimbursement of study expenses. The needs-based study allowance of the student will be established with the state budget for every year in three amounts according to whether the average income of the student amounts to 1) up to 25 % or 2) 26 % – 50 % or 3) 51 – 100 % of the maximum rate of the average income established by the state budget. The average income will be calculated on the basis of the income subject to income tax, as well as dividends received and payments from the equity, of the student and his or her family members in the calendar year preceding the academic year in which the needs-based study allowance is applied for. A student is considered a family with his or her parents until the age of 24. This Act also amends the Taxation Act and the Social Welfare Act. The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The result of voting: 10 votes in favour, 42 against. The motion was not supported. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (310 SE), initiated by the Government, was adjourned. The reading will be resumed at the regular sitting on Thursday.

The sitting ended on Thursday, 6 December at 9.45 a.m.

The Riigikogu Press Service

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