The Riigikogu passed three Acts:
The Gambling Act (216 SE), initiated by the Government, which organises the Estonian gambling market and updates the requirements for organising gambling games, was passed with 73 votes in favour. In the Act, the provisions regulating lottery as one type of gambling game have been merged in the same Act together with the remaining gambling games. Although lottery has its peculiarities when compared to other gambling games, merging of the two separate Acts proved expedient because general provisions are common for all types of gambling games, as are the bases for exercising supervision. More specific regulation is also provided for organisation of gambling games via means of communication (Internet, digi-TV, telephone and mobile phone). The share capital requirement of two million kroons for an organiser of gambling game is increased to amount to one million euro.
The Act on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act and the State Fees Act (274 SE), initiated by the Government, which implements the mutual recognition in Estonia of certificates of competency issued by the European Union member states, was passed with 51 votes in favour (27 votes against). The Act allows lighthouse dues, ice breaking dues and navigation dues to be collected pursuant to enforcement procedure. The Act establishes state fees for issuing of a certificate of competency of the crew member and endorsements thereto, the certificate concerning completion of an in-service training course, and the certificate of competency as a deck officer of an inland vessel and the endorsement thereto.
The Act on Approval of Amendment of Convention establishing Customs Cooperation Council (288 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 67 votes in favour. Accession of the European Community to the WCO will enable the European Community to represent the interests of member states in this organisation in the areas where the European Community member states have given up their competence to the European Community. Estonia will not give up its competence with the approval of the amendment of the Convention, because competence has already been divided between the Community and member states since accession to the EU.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of four Bills:
The Bill on Amendments to the Road Transport Act, the State Fees Act and the Punishment Register Act (284 SE), initiated by the Government, was prepared with a view to reducing the financial costs and save the time of carriers upon application for road transport documents. Also, application for documents will become handier thanks to the possibility of electronic application for several documents. The Bill brings several provisions of the Road Transport Act into conformity with the European Union law and amendments made to other Acts of Estonia. Amendments to the scope of responsibility of the Act allow enhanced supervision of compliance with the requirements of the Road Transport Act. Entering of the data concerning carriers to the register of economic activities is going to allow better overview of road transport documents which have been issued to carriers, in particular for obtaining information as to whether an undertaking has been granted the right to organise road transport operations.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, amendments which provide that both pension and benefits for disabled persons would continue to be delivered home by post to old age pensioners and persons with profound disability receiving pension for incapacity for work whose mobility is restricted or who live in a low density area and who have difficulties in accessing banking service were included in the Bill on Amendments to the State Pension Insurance Act, the State Family Benefits Act and Other Acts concerning Social Insurance Benefits and Social Benefits (267 SE), initiated by the Government, for second reading as a result of voting. A person has to submit a reasoned application to the pension office of his or her residence for home delivery of pension and benefit. The motion of the Estonian Centre Party Faction to suspend the second reading was not supported. The result of voting: 30 votes in favour, 47 votes against.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Employment Services and Subsidies Act and the Social Welfare Act (285 SE), initiated by the Government, is to improve the provision of employment services. The Bill extends the range of persons with whom the Labour Market Board can enter into a contract for the provision of a service to an unemployed person. According to the Bill, coaching for working life may be carried out by every person and work practice may be carried out by every employer, that is, authority of executive power. The procedure for provision of the services and the concept of suitable work are also specified, as well as the registration of the unemployed and of the people searching for work and the conditions of payment of labour market benefits (unemployment allowance, transport and accommodation benefits).
The Bill on Amendments to the Contained Use of Genetically Modified Micro-organisms Act (268 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the specified Act into conformity with European Union legislation. In essence, the safety of contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms (GMM) is specified with the aim of protecting human health and the environment. Implementation of the Act increases the safety of employees and environmental safety upon contained use of GMM. At the same time, users of GMMs are alerted to the fact that the transport of GMMs by road, rail, inland waterway, sea or air is regulated by legislation concerning carriage of dangerous goods.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of seven Bills:
The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Increase of the Staff and Extension of the Time Limit of the Use of the Estonian Defence Forces in Performance of International Duties of the Estonian State under the International Peacekeeping Mission in Afghanistan” (356 OE), submitted by the Government, increases the staff of the Estonian Defence Forces in Afghanistan to up to 170 members of the Defence Forces and extends the time limit of their use on the peacekeeping mission under the leadership of NATO in the membership of (International Security Assistance Force – ISAF) until 31 December 2009.
The Bill on Accession to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems (315 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of accession to the Convention is to ensure, by standardized enforcement measures, effective control of paints used in anti-fouling systems on the ships of State Parties as well as third countries that enter a port, shipyard, or offshore terminal under the jurisdiction of a State Party. The Convention also enables Parties to participate, pursuant to the Convention, in the proposing of amendments to the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships in order to prevent the potential use of other harmful substances in the future. As a State Party, Estonia can exchange the results of research and development, the best practice and the experience obtained in the course of the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships.
The Bill on Amendments to the Forest Act, the Environmental Charges Act and the Participation in Legal Persons in Private Law by the State Act (350 SE), initiated by the Government, amends and adds provisions to the specified Acts. The purpose of the amendments is to establish revenue of the income of the State Forest Management Centre to the state budget on the same bases as in the case of companies with state participation. The bases for allocation of funds to the Foundation (the Environmental Investment Centre) on the basis of the Environmental Charges Act have also been corrected accordingly. In addition, the Participation in Legal Persons in Private Law by the State Act is amended with the aim of creating better opportunities for profit-making state agencies to cooperate with the private sector in business, economy and development. The motion of the Estonian People’s Union Faction to reject the Bill at the first reading was not supported. The result of voting: 22 votes in favour, 44 votes against.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (335 SE), initiated by the Government, enables more specific information to be obtained on the formation of the price of electricity and network services. As the Act which is currently in force provides the obligation of network operators and sellers to submit data concerning electricity price to the Statistics Estonia, then the Act will bring additional workload to neither the Statistics Estonia nor sellers or network operators. In addition, the obligation to submit electricity or network service price data is established for producers and line possessors (in cases when they provide network services to consumers) so that the bases for the formation of the price of electricity and network services would be as clear and transparent as possible in the situation of opening electricity market.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Digital Signature Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (320 SE), initiated by the Government, is to create opportunities for enterprises, agencies and natural persons to start using digital stamp. Carriers of public law positions (notary, sworn translator, bailiff) also need digital stamp. The technology of digital stamp is similar to that of digital signature but it is intended for use by legal persons, besides natural persons. Digital stamp certifies the connection of the holder of the digital stamp certificate with the document, and the integrity of the document.
The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Value Added Tax Act and the State Fees Act (347 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the time schedule of the reduction of income tax rate by postponing the reduction of the income tax rate by one year. This means that for both natural and legal persons the rate will be 21 per cent in 2009 and will start to reduce again in 2010, amounting to 20 per cent; the rate will be 19 per cent in 2011 and 18 per cent starting from 2012. The amendments postpone the increase of the rate of basic exemption by one year. In 2009, the rate of basic exemption will remain at the current level, that is, 27 000 kroons per year. It will be 30 000 kroons in 2010, 33 000 kroons in 2011 and 36 000 starting from 2012. In 2009, the amendments temporarily eliminate the possibility to deduct from income increased basic exemption for the first child. This does not concern the use of this right upon declaration of the income of the year 2008 – in an income tax return to be submitted by 31 March 2009, a resident parent or guardian of a child or other person maintaining a child may deduct increased basic exemption from his or her income for each child of up to 17 years of age in so far as the taxable income of the child was lower than the basic exemption. When declaring the income of the year 2009, this deduction can be used starting from the second child and, as of 2010, again starting from the first child. The Bill amends subsection 15 (2) of the Value Added Tax Act such that the reduced value added tax rate of 5 per cent is increased to 9 per cent and advantageous rates of some goods and services are eliminated. The purpose of amending of the State Fees Act is to implement the objectives of the social and economic policy of the Government through increase of state fee rates. The Bill was prepared due to the need to update and specify the rates of the state fees charged for traffic register acts which have been in force since 1 January 2005. Also, state fees for ID-card, approval of visa invitations and review of applications for residence permits are increased by the Bill. The amendments increase the rates of the state fees charged for traffic register acts and on the basis of the Aliens Act such that they would cover the expenses relating to the acts.
The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (352 SE), initiated by the Government. With postponement of the implementation of the calculation on a yearly basis and the advance payments system upon taxation of companies, the accrual of state budget revenue will increase by 1 295 million kroons in 2009. Reduction of the holding rate of 15 per cent which is required for not withholding income tax from dividends paid to a non-resident and for exemption from income tax of dividends received from the subsidiary of an Estonian company in a foreign state to 10 per cent will result in a decrease of 27 million kroons in 2009.
At Question Time, the Minister of the Environment Jaanus Tamkivi answered the question about reforms in the Ministry of the Environment, submitted by Karel Rüütli, the question about the increase of emission into air, submitted by Marek Strandberg, and the question about involvement of the public, submitted by Toomas Trapido. The Minister of Regional Affairs Siim-Valmar Kiisler answered the question about regional development, submitted by Arvo Sarapuu, and the question about regional policy, submitted by Ester Tuiksoo. The Minister of Internal Affairs Jüri Pihl answered the question about control over firearms, submitted by Jaanus Marrandi.
The sitting ended at 6.13 p.m.