At Thursday's sitting of the Riigikogu, the Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu made a report on the implementation of the development objectives of legal policy until 2018 and presented ten proposals on the reduction of the volume of legislative drafting to the Riigikogu.
The Minister of Justice Reinsalu was concerned that the changing of new rules has not slowed down over time; on the contrary, the speed and volume has increased. “On 1 January last year, 386 Acts were in force in Estonia. In only three sessions, 320 Acts of 386 were amended at least once. If we continue at this pace, in the grand scheme of things, we will amend all Acts at least three times during this parliamentary term,” Reinsalu said.
In summer, the Minister of Justice made proposals on reducing the volume of legislative drafting to the Government cabinet, and at present the Ministry of Justice is drafting the implementation plan for this programme. “This plan has a brief and clear aim: let’s pull the brakes on the mass production of Acts,” Reinsalu said. “The Estonian society has the sensation that legislative drafting in Estonia has become over-regulatory and too rapid and unstable,” Reinsalu said.
In Reinsalu’s opinion, the ultima ratio principle will have to be established in the legislative drafting. “Every new Bill will have to come with a presumption of guilt. The drafters will have an obligation to prove to the public and the parliament that this Act is inevitably needed and there is no other possibility to solve this issue,” Reinsalu said. He added that aesthetics of legislative drafting or filigree regulation of administration would not be sufficient reasons.
The Minister of Justice made ten proposals on the reduction of the volume of legislative drafting to the Riigikogu. In his words, a legislative intent will have to precede every new Act. “In theory, today, every Bill, excepting cases of crisis, should have this intent which briefly sets out the idea of the new Act. In practice, only 19 per cent of Bills had it last year, and only nine per cent of Bills have had it over seven months this year,” Reinsalu said.
Reinsalu called on the parliament’s committees to begin to discuss the legislative intents of Bills together with ministers because this significantly increases the factual power of the parliament.
“I propose that, under the leadership of the Legal Affairs Committee and the Constitutional Committee of the parliament, a serious parliamentary hearing in the issue of reducing the volume of legislative drafting be conducted, and the legal policy doctrine of this parliamentary term be formulated as regards the policy of the volume of legislative drafting,” Reinsalu said.
The Minister of Justice also called on the parliament to take time for new Acts and suggested not to hurry, to request impact analyses and to avoid over-regulation. “We will have to establish a principle that, when a new administrative regulation comes, the burden of undertakings must be reduced in some way. This must be demanded especially within the focus of the Economic Affairs Committee, the Finance Committee and the Environment Committee,” Reinsalu said.
In Reinsalu’s words, the ultima ratio principle will have to be used also in the case of all new EU law initiatives. “In the transposition of directives it must be demanded clearly that the division line be seen between the requirement to transpose the directive and our national zeal to transpose more than is actually required,” Reinsalu said.
As regards Acts, Reinsalu called to exclude from the proceedings unnecessary administrative regulations that do not ensure the rights of people but regulate only technical procedures. The Minister also called on all committees in the parliament to pick three major Acts that had been passed in the year before the last, to appoint a rapporteur for each of them and to make an impact assessment. In his opinion, it would significantly increase the parliamentary scrutiny power of the committees if the parliament began to conduct follow up audits on legislative intents.
The Minister of Justice also made a proposal to introduce the Government’s legislative drafting schedule for the next year to the Riigikogu and the committees, in order that they could have an opportunity to give feedback. Also, in the opinion of the Minister, every new rule must come with an idea, for example whether it will increase the wealth of the society, reduce the growth of GDP or add freedoms.
Toomas Vitsut, Raivo Aeg, Heljo Pikhof, Jüri Adams, Martin Helme and Kalle Laanet took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate. They supported the principle of reducing the volume of legislative drafting but pointed out different aspects regarding the implementation and presented arguments against the statements of the Minister of Justice.
The Riigikogu passed two Acts:
The Riigikogu approved with 84 votes in favour (2 abstentions) the Chemicals Act (72 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act has been drafted based on the Act on Amendments to the Chemicals Act that is currently in force. As the Chemicals Act that is currently in force has become difficult to read due to the great number of amendments, amendments have been presented as a consolidated text in the interests of improving the quality of the text of the Act. The amendments to the substance concern in particular establishments with major-accident hazard and establishments that handle products containing precursors to explosives. The Act does not directly concern ordinary people.
The Riigikogu approved with 80 votes in favour (2 abstentions) the Act on Amendments to the Water Act (76 SE), initiated by the Government. The drafting of the Act has been necessitated by the changes in the handling of hazardous substances in the aquatic environment that have occurred at the European Union level. The Act specifies the legal acts on hazardous substances.
Two Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Council Election Act and Associated Acts (42 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee. The Bill will lower the voting age in the Local Government Council Election Act from the age of 18 to 16, according to the amendment to subsection 156 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia that entered into force on 13August 2015. The Bill introduces an amendment according to which the right to vote is held, pursuant to conditions prescribed by Local Government Council Election Act, by persons who reside permanently in the territory of the local authority and have attained 16 years of age.
Andre Sepp who made a report said that six motions to amend had been submitted to the Constitutional Committee, one of which, the motion to amend submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, had not been supported.
The motion submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction had been to allow 16 and 17 year olds to stand as candidates in local government council elections. The Constitutional Committee did not support that because the voting age in local government council election was lowered to 16 with the constitutional amendment that entered into force on 13 August, and the Constitution does not regulate the right to stand as a candidate in local government council elections. Under the Act which is currently in force, the age for the right to stand as a candidate is at least 18, and there was no intention to lower the age for standing as a candidate with this Bill.
Motions to amend No. 2 – 6 were of a technical nature and specified the wording. The need to cover the additional costs involved was also specified in the explanatory memorandum for the second reading of the Bill. The total cost of court proceedings may amount to 239 282 euro.
Priit Toobal, Jüri Adams and Kalle Laanet took the floor during the debate. Toobal gave the reasons for the motion submitted by the Centre Party Faction, and Laanet gave the reasons for rejecting it. Adams criticised the Bill.
The result of the voting on the motion to amend submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction: 19 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 50 against; thus, the motion to amend was not supported.
The Bill on Amendments to the Persons Repressed by Occupying Powers Act and the Public Transport Act (61 SE), initiated by the Government. It will establish, as of 2016, the benefit for repressed persons, replacing the benefit for restoration of health and the fare concession. The amount of the benefit will be 192 euro per calendar year and submission of expense receipts will not be required for application for the benefit.
The Social Affairs Committee made two motions to amend the Bill; one of them was linguistic and the other concerned the rules of legislative drafting.
One Bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (58 SE), initiated by the Estonian Free Party. The Bill is intended to provide for the right of the members of the Riigikogu to ask questions of the representative of the Government at the second reading of bills and draft Resolutions that have been initiated by the Government of the Republic and have been declared to be a matter of confidence before the second reading.
Jüri Adams took the floor during the debate and gave the reasons for the need to ask questions.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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