Senate passes another Reconstruction of the State bill: More transparency to legislative process

The Senate has just passed an amendment to the Chamber of Deputies Rules of Procedure, which will help to improve transparency of the legislative process. This amendment will help disclose illicit legislative add-ons or “riders” and assess their implications by way of extending the deadline for familiarization with legislative drafts, as well as put an end to anonymous voting in the committees. It is an amended version of the motion tabled through the initiative of Reconstruction of the State by a group of deputies for ANO, TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL at the very first session of the lower house of parliament. This amendment meets the parameters defined by the Statement of Support for Reconstruction of the State, acceded to by 158 members of parliament. Previous attempts to make the legislative process more transparent had been rejected by the Chamber of Deputies in four instances since 2009.

“We are glad that the deputies have passed this bare legislative minimum designed to tame the run-of-the-mill manufacture of laws,” says Jiří Boudal, coordinator of the Reconstruction of the State platform. “Earlier, deputies wouldn’t have their powers in this matter curbed one inch, although the first motions against the “riders” landed on their table eight years ago,” he explains.

Reconstruction of the State and its members have long cautioned against dangerous “riders” piggybacking on legislation that decides about billions of crowns from public funds, or completely alter its diction without proper analysis and accompanying reports. “The “bulkiest” rider was hidden, in 2010, in an amendment to the consumer tax act, enabling ČEZ to earn extra tens of billions of crowns’ worth of free-of-charge carbon permits. The rider was surreptitiously tabled five days ahead of the vote. In another instance, the problematic sCard lurked behind a 100-page “rider”, passed in five days’ time. The current Chamber of Deputies has similarly reduced the petrol and diesel tax after its members “mistakenly” passed it along with a green diesel rebate tax. At the end of September, deputies “smuggled” a rider into a draft amendment to the electronic communication bill, which degrades the position of consumers in relation to mobile operators. Customers will find it appreciably more difficult to withdraw from a contract if the operator has changed contract terms, such as its price list.

The chief assets of the amendment are as follows:

  • Information on who tabled draft amendments and how individual MPs voted will be easy to retrieve. Deputies will no longer be able to hide behind the collective decision of the respective committee.
  • Members of parliament, the media and the public will have more time to find out all about the essence of the amendment proposed. It will be all the more difficult to see unexpected “riders” through the legislative process.
  • All draft amendments will require an expert position of the committee responsible for the particular legislative process of approval.

The bill, re-tabled on the Reconstruction of the State insistence by 46 deputies for ANO, TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL after the elections, skipped some other proposals, notably the requirement to fully trace the history of a bill, for an explanatory report on draft amendments, or promoting the principle of public deliberations in the committees. “These proposals made sense and it’s a shame they fell under the table,” notes Jiří Boudal.

Past examples of the endeavour to upgrade the Rules of Procedure:

  • Soňa Paukrtová’s motion to amend the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies—Senate Print 197 (passed by Chamber, defeated by Senate), tabled way back in 2006.
  • Motion by a group of Deputies (Peake, Andrýsová, Gazdík, Langšádlová) seeking amendment to the Act No. 90/1995 Coll., on the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies—Print 1029.
  • In the past legislative period, the Chamber of Deputies set up a sub-committee on amendments to the House Rules of Procedure, led by Lower House Speaker Miroslava Němcová. However, it did not arrive at any conclusions.

Additional information on the bill and selected “riders” are available (in Czech) here:
http://www.rekonstrukcestatu.cz/cs/pruhledny-legislativni-proces

About the approval process and the Reconstruction of the State steps (in Czech):
http://franc.blog.ihned.cz/c1-62657360-nenapadna-zmena-nebo-poradna-rana-lobbistum

Additional information will be gladly provided by

Jiří Boudal
jiri.boudal@frankbold.org
+420 777 804 658