Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Informed debate needs information

Amending the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) and drafting regulations on tourist conservation fees at national scenic areas might not, on the surface, appear to have much in common, but they do.

Both are poster children for the inefficient, if not incompetent, approach traditionally taken to drafting and enacting legislation and regulations in this nation.

The furor seen inside and outside the Legislative Yuan this week over the government’s effort to change the amendments to the labor act that were passed just over a year ago obscured the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ announcement on Tuesday that it would soon publish new regulations establishing a legal basis for entry charges and tourist conservation fees at national scenic areas.

The word “traditionally” is key here because, despite an effort by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials and others to paint the labor act kerfuffle solely as a blunder by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — and it was a disastrous mess — the drafting, submission, legislative negotiation and debate, and then legislative vote, all followed a well-trodden path that dates back decades.

An issue arises; calls to amend a law or draft a new one to deal with the issue are made; government officials or experts are called upon to provide a rationale for the proposed changes; legislation is drafted; public hearings may or may not be held; and the Cabinet votes to send a proposal to the legislature, where it is either acted upon or sent into legislative limbo. Yet, too often this entire process occurs with a crucial element missing: the actual details of the new laws or regulations, which are left to be filled in later by the regulatory authorities.

For example, the ministry said it had solicited public opinion on its draft regulations for two months, but that it would need to list the affected areas and advertise the rates — which could vary depending on the time of year and nationality of the visitors — for six months before it starts implementing the charges.

Yet, in October last year, the Tourism Bureau said it had passed regulations to allow agencies that manage tourist and scenic destinations to collect a conservation fee for designated areas, and that national park agencies could apply to be designated as natural scenic sites in order to charge such a fee.

How can public opinion be sought or given when neither the bureau nor the ministry has provided a complete list of what areas would be covered and what the fee rates for each area would be?

Would the labor act have had to be amended twice in 13 months if the proposed amendments to working hours, overtime pay and other issues had been actually calculated to take into account the needs and demands of different industries and professions, as well as adequate public notice given and opinion sought, instead of rushing a one-size-fits-all rule through the legislature?

Another example of uninformed debate would be the legislature beginning a review of lawmakers’ proposed amendments to the Mining Act (礦業法) in July last year without having the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ proposed amendment to reference — because the ministry’s version had yet to be finalized, as it was still in the 60-day public notice phase.

However, the prime example of a badly written law remains the 1999 amendment to the Criminal Code — Article 185-3 — to toughen the law against drunk driving.

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