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The Riigikogu passed with 80 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to § 42 of the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (689 SE), initiated by the Government, which guarantees that rural municipalities and cities (owners of municipal schools) and owners of private schools receive support from the state budget for covering the expense of school lunch also as regards upper secondary school stage students.

The Act concerns more than 22500 upper secondary school students who now have the right to free school lunch just like basic school and vocational school students. 3.1 million euro are planned for that in the state budget. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2015. 

The representatives of factions Andrus Saare, Etti Kagarov, Tarmo Tamm and Lauri Luik, who took the floor during the debate, stressed the importance of ensuring school lunch for all students. 

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of two Bills

The Bill on Amendments to the Pre-School Child Care Institutions Act (641 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase the flexibility of child care opportunities and provide the right of children of the same family to attend the same kindergarten. According to the Bill, the local government will have the right to offer a parent of a child of one and a half up to three years of age a child care place instead of kindergarten. In that case, the cost-sharing in the monthly fee will be equal to that of kindergarten, a maximum of 20 per cent of the minimum wage. If the parent does not agree to the child care place, the local government will continue to have the obligation to guarantee a place in kindergarten for the child. 

Laine Randjärv, Liisa-Ly Pakosta, Eldar Efendijev and Jaak Allik took the floor during the debate. The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The result of voting: 32 votes in favour, 51 against, 1 abstention. The motion was not supported. The Bill was sent to the third reading. 

The Bill on Amendments to the Sports Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (722 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes the legal basis for the implementation of the system of support, necessary for payment of remuneration to coaches. Sports clubs and sports schools will have the possibility to apply for state budget funds for payment of remuneration to coaches. 

Toomas Tõniste took the floor during the debate. 

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of seven Bills

In the State Budget of the Year 2015 Bill (730 SE), initiated by the Government, the revenue of the coming year’s state budget is planned to amount to 8.45 billion euro, which is 7 per cent more as compared to this year. The total volume of expenditure will amount to 8.54 billion euro which is 6 per cent more as compared to this year. The budget position of the government sector will be in structural surplus of 0.8 per cent of GDP in the coming year, which is 0.6 per cent higher than proposed in the state budget strategy. 

The Minister of Finance Jürgen Ligi gave an overview of the economic environment forecast and the revenue and expenditure of the state budget, and replied to questions. “The global conditions are unstable but Estonia is still expecting to see a speeding up of economic growth, improvement of tax receipt and an increase of people’s incomes next year,” Ligi said. He added that, in the near future, economic growth will be limited by scarce external demand which will also curb investment activity. It may however strengthen gradually next year. In the meantime, domestic consumption will most support the Estonian economy and, in Ligi’s opinion, its support will remain also in the coming years. The Ministry of Finance forecasts the growth of Estonian GDP to be 2.5% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2016. These expected growth rates are significantly better than the average of the European Union and eurozone countries. Ligi said that Estonia’s economic growth has not been suspended during the last year, differently from what had been thought on the basis of earlier statistics. In reliance on recent data, an economic growth of 1.5–2% can be expected this year. Ligi said that an important objective of state finances is to keep a balance, that is, to fund the state functions so that it would stabilise the economic environment. 

The Chairman of the Finance Committee Rannar Vassiljev made a summary of the discussions that had been held and are ongoing in the Committee with the participation of representatives of all ministries and local governments. 

The representatives of factions Kadri Simson, Karel Rüütli, Sven Sester and Aivar Sõerd took the floor during the debate. 

The deadline for submission of motions to amend is 5.15 p.m. on 5 November. 

The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget of 2014 Act (746 SE), initiated by the Government, introduces amendments within the budget. Considering that the state budget for 2014 was prepared in the autumn of the preceding year and some of the funding needs have changed, it is expedient to initiate an amendment of the state budget to better achieve the aims set by state agencies. The total volume of the budget revenue and expenditure will not change. 

The State Fees Bill (725 SE), initiated by the Government, provides the consolidated text of the new State Fees Act which is necessary in connection with the correction of all state fee rates. The current state fee rates date from 2011 when the fees were recalculated from kroons to euro to the nearest cent. The Bill will simplify the payment and administration of state fees. In the future, state fee rates will be established not to the nearest cent, but in full euros. On the basis of this rule, the existing fee rates will also be corrected. In order not to reduce receipts from state fees, the rates of the existing fees have been corrected upwards in the Bill. Not all existing fees have been assessed as to their cost-orientation in connection with the amendments, and the amendments are based only on bringing the fee rate to the currency unit which takes into account the order of magnitude of the nearest reasonable fee rate. 

Siim Valmar Kiisler took the floor during the debate. 

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Grant of Authorisation for the Establishment of the European Stability Mechanism Direct Bank Recapitalisation Instrument” (734 OE), submitted by the Government, will give the representatives of Estonia the authority to vote on the issues necessary for the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Direct Bank Recapitalisation Instrument. All eurozone members are ESM members. The Decision will involve no direct costs or benefits for the Estonian state. The creation of the new instrument will not change Estonia’s participation or obligations arising therefrom in the ESM.

The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol Act (723 SE), initiated by the Government, specifies the definition of the type of alcoholic beverage, simplifies the rules for application for the entry of alcohol in the state register of alcohol for handlers, and updates the organisation of the work of the state register of alcohol and the form of the document accompanying alcohol. The necessary technical amendments are also made. As compared to the current law, the amendment of the Alcohol Act will not bring about fundamental changes in the Estonian legal system. 

The Fisheries Market Organisation Bill (744 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the implementation of the operational programme for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, as well as the national division of tasks necessary for the administration of the state aid to fisheries, de minimis fisheries aid and other fisheries aid. It also provides for the provisions delegating authority to establish legislative acts concerning the conditions for the grant of assistance, the main procedural provisions concerning the grant of assistance, and the obligations of applicants for assistance and recipients. The Bill is largely based on the current Fisheries Market Regulation Act and the implementation system therefor. According to the Bill, the Minister of Agriculture will be responsible for the area establishing implementing acts.

The European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Bill (745 SE), initiated by the Government, is necessary in the implementation of the EU Common Agricultural Policy, for the application of the EU Regulations applicable in the application of measures, by regulating the organisational side of the use of resources. A significant part of the Common Agricultural Policy is comprised of supports for rural development granted on the basis of and pursuant to the procedure provided for in “The Estonian Rural Development Plan 2014-2020”. The expected impact of the supports for rural development for 2014-2020 are discussed in the ex ante evaluation of the programme document “The Estonian Rural Development Plan 2014-2020” on the basis of which supports are granted. The report on this ex ante evaluation has been attached to the Development Plan. The strategic environmental assessment has also been done together with the ex ante evaluation, and a monitoring and evaluation system has been set up to evaluate the results and impacts of the Development Plan. 

The sitting ended at 8.01 p.m. 

The Riigikogu Press Service