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On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second reading the Bill on Amendments to the Land Tax Act Exempting 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. According to the Bill, the owner of the land or the user of the land will be exempt from payment of land tax to the extent of up to 0.15 ha on residential land in his or her use or land parcels located within yards on profit yielding land in cities, cities without municipal status, towns or small towns, and areas assessed as high density areas with a general plan by the local government or with a county plan by the county governor, and up to 2.0 ha in other places if the residence of the person is in a building located on such land according to the data on the place of residence entered in the population register. The members of the building association who live in the building according to the data of the population register will also be exempt from payment of land tax. The residential land used by the building association will be exempt from land tax in the same rate, to the extent of 0.15 ha in high density areas and 2.0 ha in other places, respectively, distributed proportionally among the members of the building association. The Estonian Centre Party Faction and the Social Democratic Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of this Bill. 54 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 39 members voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (40 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the Bill, the income tax rate will be reduced to 20% instead of the current 21% as of 2015. Secondly, under the Bill, the total amount of deductions allowed from the income of natural persons will be restricted to 1920 instead of 3196. Thirdly, professional formal education will no longer be treated as a fringe benefit in employment and service relationships under the Bill. Fourthly, under the Bill, 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 Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of this Bill. 53 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 36 members voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the second 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 third reading.
 
On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Vocational Educational Institutions Act, the Private Schools Act and the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act (6 SE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and the Estonian Reform Party Faction, was concluded. According to the Bill, the Vocational Educational Institutions Act and the Private Schools Act will be amended by adding implementing provisions which will create the legal basis for a single selective accreditation of curriculum groups. The single selective and voluntary accreditation will concern the curriculum groups of accommodation, catering, or building and civil engineering. Accreditation will be carried out by the higher education quality agency on the basis of a request, and the positive assessment given by the agency will be taken into account not only upon grant of an education licence but also upon ordering of an expert evaluation of the curriculum. The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill; 43 members of the Riigikogu voted against and 29 voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
The Resolution on appointment of a member of the Supervisory Board of the Guarantee Fund (65 OE), submitted by the Finance Committee, was passed with 65 votes in favour. According to the Resolution, Member of the Riigikogu Peeter Laurson was appointed a member of the Supervisory Board of the Guarantee Fund instead of Tatjana Muravjova.
 
The Resolution on removal of members and appointment of new members of the Council of the Stabilisation Reserve Fund (66 OE), submitted by the Finance Committee, was passed with 72 votes in favour. Raivo Järvi, Inara Luigas, Eiki Nestor and Marek Strandberg were removed from the Council of the Stabilisation Reserve Fund and Members of the Riigikogu Annely Akkermann, Inara Luigas, Taavi Rõivas and Rannar Vassiljev were appointed new members.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Fees Act (10 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to reduce the state fees related to trial. The initiator stated that, on 1 January 2009, the state fee rates in civil proceedings had increased by several times which had restricted the opportunities for persons to protect their rights. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Commercial Code and Other Associated Acts (9 SE), initiated by the Government, was not passed at the third reading. 49 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act; however, a majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu (51 votes) was needed for the Act to be passed.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act (39 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 53 votes in favour. According to the amendments, the use of the liquid fuel marked with a fiscal marker will be terminated in stationary motors and extraction, forestry and construction works. This will be the first stage in reforming the system of tax differentiation of the fuel marked with a fiscal marker. 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. 33 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2012.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (42 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 70 votes in favour. According to the Act, the excise duty rate on tobacco products will be raised by 10% as of 2013. The initiator stated that the purpose of the Act was to increase state budget revenues and bring 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. The purpose of the motion to amend which was added during the second reading is to curb the availability of cheaper cigarettes to young people through increased taxation, by increasing the fixed tax rate from 46 euro to 47.63 euro and reducing the proportional rate from 34 per cent to 33 per cent of the maximum retail price of cigarettes. Nobody voted against the Act, 2 members of the Riigikogu abstained.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Peace-Time National Defence Act and Other Acts in connection with Amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia (28 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 88 votes in favour. The purpose of the Act is to bring Acts into conformity with the changes made in the organisation of national defence with the Act on amendments to the Constitution. The greatest amendment as compared to the current regulation is changing of the national defence competence of the President of the Republic and elimination of the concept of the institution of “the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces” in Acts concerning national defence. The amendments also specify the appointing to office and release from office of the Commander of the Defence Forces, the Commander of the General Staff of the Defence Forces, the Commander of the National Defence League and chiefs of services. According to the Act, the Government of the Republic appoints the Commander of the Defence Forces to office for one term of five years on the proposal of the Minister of Defence, taking account of the position of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu. The Commander of the General Staff of the Defence Forces is appointed to office and released from office by the Government of the Republic on the proposal of the Minister of Defence, taking account of the position of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu. The Commander of the National Defence League is appointed to office and released from office by the Government of the Republic on the joint proposal of the Minister of Defence and the Commander of the Defence Forces. A chief of service is appointed to office and released from office by the Minister of Defence on the proposal of the Commander of the Defence Forces. The Act enters into force on 22 July 2011; § 8 enters into force on 1 January 2012.
 
The Resolution “Use of the Defence Forces in Performance of the International Duties of the Estonian State in the Air Surveillance Mission in Iceland” (59 OE), submitted by the Government, which allows to use up to three members of the Estonian Defence Forces on the ISLAPS (Icelandic Air Policing and Surveillance) mission, led by NATO, until 31 December 2013, was passed with 66 votes in favour. The air surveillance mission in Iceland is an operation conducted on the territory of a NATO member state to guarantee the protection of the air space of a NATO member state. Estonia can participate in the ISLAPS operation with forward air controllers, i.e. ground-based members of pilot crews who provide guidance for combat aircraft in the air. Estonia has taken part in air surveillance missions in Iceland with forward air controllers twice in the composition of the Danish Air Force in 2009 and 2010.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second 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 third reading.
 
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Community-scale Involvement of Employees Act (48 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendment is based on European Union directives and its purpose is to improve the right of the employees of Community-scale undertakings and the groups of Community-scale undertakings to be guaranteed information and consultation in good time at the appropriate levels. The second purpose of the Bill is to guarantee better legal clarity of the Act. In the Act which is currently in force, shortcomings that need to be amended and updated have become evident in some provisions. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the second 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 Bill specifies 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 third reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Railways Act (27 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. 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 more effective 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 third reading.
 
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (55 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Water Act is brought into conformity with the European Union directives which aim to ensure the quality and comparability of analytical results generated by laboratories appointed by competent authorities of the EU Member States to perform water chemical monitoring pursuant to the Water Policy Framework Directive. In ensuring the quality of the work of the laboratories, the Directive proceeds from the standard EVS-EN ISO/IEC 17025 on general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories, that deals with the general requirements for the work of laboratories and the quality of analytical results obtained, and the principles of the functioning of the quality management system. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act (56 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to transpose into Estonian law the requirements of the European Union directives that concern ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe. The Bill improves the national monitoring system of ambient air quality in Estonia (in regard to the primary pollutants to be analysed) by dividing the territory of the state into zones according ambient air quality on the basis of the concentration of each primary pollutant in the air layer near the surface. If the results of national monitoring of ambient air quality in a zone indicate that the level of pollution in regard to the concentration of a pollutant exceeds the limit value, the Environmental Board will have to prepare an action plan for improving the ambient air quality in the zone. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act (57 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the amendments, the requirements of European Union directives aimed at improving and extending the greenhouse gases emission allowances trading system of the Community are transposed into Estonian law. The Bill also provides the establishment of the system of accredited verifiers in Estonia corresponding to the requirements of the trading system. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the National Audit Office Act and the Authorised Public Accountants Act (58 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the regulation provided in the Bill is to extend the term for taking the recertification examination for persons who have acquired the qualification of a sworn auditor. It also intends to postpone the entry into force of the provisions concerning the right to engage independently in the internal auditor’s professional activities and to perform the sworn auditor’s professional assurance functions or to provide the auditor’s assurance services in a public sector entity, in order to ensure a sufficient transition period for implementation of the provisions of the National Audit Office Act and the Authorised Public Accountants Act. 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 Aviation Act (41 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill transposes the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on airport charges. The purpose of the Directive is to establish a common framework regulating airport charges. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
The sitting ended at 8.03 p.m.
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
 
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