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The Riigikogu passed with 78 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Copyright Act (394 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendments transpose the relevant European Union directive and harmonise the legal provisions related to the Directive. The amendments extend the term of protection for performers and producers of phonograms to 70 years after publication, and performers whose performances are no longer published by the original producer of the phonogram after the initial 50-year term of protection will be allowed to terminate the contract if they so wish, and to decide for themselves on the performance again. A sum corresponding to 20% of the revenue from the use of such phonograms which would have lost protection in the event of failure to extend the term will be set aside for studio musicians who have transferred their rights of fixation, reproduction, distribution and communication to the public to the phonogram producer in return for a one-off payment. The Act enters into force on 1 November 2013.

The Act on Amendments to § 131 of the Waste Act (421 SE), initiated by the Environment Committee, the aim of which is to extend the term for conditioning of closed landfills, was passed with 78 votes in favour. According to subsection 131 (2) of the Waste Act, landfills closed for waste deposit by 16 July 2009 must be conditioned in accordance with the requirements not later than by 16 July 2013.

The Act on the Ratification of the Convention for the Establishment of a European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and the Protocol on Amendments thereto (411 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 71 votes in favour. The ratification of the Convention and the Protocol on amendments thereto ensures the continued forwarding of satellite information to Estonia which gives a continuous operational picture of what is happening in the atmosphere. Many meteorological elements measured from satellites are important for developing weather forecast models and increasing their accuracy. The member state status in the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) includes the full right to vote in the EUMETSAT Council and in the staff recruitment procedure Besides access to all EUMETSAT data and services, Estonia will get an opportunity to participate and have a say in the shaping of the methods, decisions and policy in the field of meteorology in Europe. Becoming a full member of the organisation is provided for in the cooperation agreement concluded with EUMETSAT on 19 December 2006.

The Act on the Ratification of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (412 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 68 votes in favour. The purpose of the Protocol is to grant EUMETSAT the privileges and immunities necessary for the independent fulfilment of its duties. Ensuring the privileges and immunity is important in the relations with the country of location of the Headquarters, that is, the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as other States Parties because EUMETSAT and its staff may fall under the jurisdiction of a State Party. Differently from usual diplomatic privileges and immunities, it is not the interest of states to follow the principle of reciprocity, but to let EUMETSAT function independently, efficiently and without fear of intervention.

On the motion of the Environment Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (391 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to specify the standards related to the relevant EU directive and to update agricultural regulations concerning the use of fertilizers with a view to ensuring a more effective protection of the aquatic environment. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Vocational Educational Institutions Act (331 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to provide an updated and improved version to replace the Vocational Educational Institutions Act which entered into force in 1998 and has become outdated today. According to the Bill, new types of vocational training are defined and transition from the current types of vocational training (vocational training without the requirement of basic education, on the basis of basic education and on the basis of secondary education, and vocational secondary education) to new types of training linked to the Estonian qualification framework is provided. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure (375 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to create a possibility to raise the quality of evidence and reduce disputes. It also establishes clear bases for video and sound recording of procedural acts and using such recordings as evidence which will reduce potential disputes concerning evidence in misdemeanours. Another significant purpose of the Bill is to enable an official of an extra-judicial body who has directly ascertained the facts of a misdemeanour to participate as a witness in court and complaint proceedings. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act (427 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to restore the regulation of repeatedly applying for the unemployment allowance or the unemployment insurance that was in force until 1 April 2013 where payment of the unemployment allowance or the unemployment insurance was continued also in the case when the person had been in the public service, including compulsory military service, alternative service or reserve service, during two periods when he or she had been registered as unemployed. The initiator asserted that amendment of the definition of service in the Defence Forces as of 1 April 2013 so that compulsory military service, alternative service and reserve service are no longer deemed to be public service should not result in a situation due to which a person loses the right to receive the unemployment allowance or the unemployment insurance. 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 (422 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to increase the basic exemption deductible from the income of a natural person by 192 euro per year during the next three years which would raise the exemption deductible from the income to 2304 euro by 2016. The authors of the Bill consider it fair that the rate of the basic exemption be raised together with the increase of the minimum wage and the average wages. The initiator stated that, otherwise, the income tax of the people who receive the minimum wage and low-income people would increase even more and constitute a disproportionately large share of the income tax collected in Estonia compared with other European Union and OECD countries. 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 Product Conformity Act (403 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill has two main purposes: to bring the regulation of referring to standards into conformity with the Constitution and to update and specify the organisation of standardisation. The Chancellor of Justice has found a conflict with the Constitution in the regulation which is currently in force and in summer 2012 he made a proposal to the Riigikogu to bring the regulation into conformity with the Constitution. The main conflict lies in the fact that the current Act allows to provide for a compulsory reference to a standard in legislation, and in that event the addressee of such provision is obliged to comply with the standard; however, access to standards is limited – a fee must be paid therefor to the Estonian Centre for Standardisation or another standardisation body. As regards the organisation of standardisation, the standardisation committee and the obligation to draft the standardisation scheme is eliminated and the financing of standardisation is specified. 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 Public Transport Act (404 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to specify the competence and functions of the authorities organising public transport, to amend the regulation concerning the public service obligation, to specify the bases for granting travel fare concessions, to organise the regulation of taxi service; to allow for increased competition in regular services by bus and to ensure the stable quality of transport services; to organise the regulation of the rights and obligations of a passenger and a driver of a vehicle in road traffic and to solve the problems encountered upon the implementation of the Act which is currently in force. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (410 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 41 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion to reject and 28 voted against, thus the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.

The Riigikogu Press Service

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