Sun, Jan 16, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Legislators finally call it a day (or two)

END OF THE SESSION Weary lawmakers pledged yesterday that a group of so-called `sunshine laws' would be given priority when the next session opens on Feb. 18

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Legislative Yuan ended its last full session meeting last night, nearly a full day longer than it had planned, passing 96 laws or amendments -- 43 of them during three days of marathon meetings and negotiations between party caucuses.

Lawmakers also vowed that a group of so-called "sunshine laws" -- which were not passed -- would be given priority in the next session that opens on Feb. 18.

After extending the current session half a month longer -- it should have ended in mid-December -- lawmakers from all three major parties and independent alliances said that they worked hard to pass important legislation.

During the previous session, that lasted from February to May 1999, only 77 bills made it through their third and final readings.

"Although some laws might have been passed for political reasons, this session still saw the passage of important civil right laws relating to soldiers, women and victims of the 921 earthquake," Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), DPP caucus leader, said.

But some scholars still criticized the fact that most lawmakers spent the majority of the session's time on a small number of important or controversial political bills meant to attract media attention, while paying little attention to researching and drawing up conscientious and careful laws.

"Legislators passed those laws in only a couple of days, while what they really care about are their own or their party's interests," Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a political analyst at National Chengchi University, said.

Some of the laws, Wu said, are either poorly drafted or unrealistic, because lawmakers only negotiated over a short period of time to decide on their priorities for which laws would be passed.

"The `gaming article' that passed at the end of the last session is one of the latest examples," Wu said. The article, which allows gambling on internationally sanctioned sporting events, was passed as a rider to the Welfare Lottery Act, contrary to the wishes of leadership of both major parties.

Wu said that as party caucus leaders negotiated the passage of many laws within a few days of the close of that session, a group of lawmakers inserted the article onto the agenda.

"Then it was passed without proper consideration," Wu said.

This last full session meeting, which continued past midnight on Friday and into Saturday, reviewed the most controversial five laws with full voting procedures.

The KMT overpowered opposition parties to pass their versions of the laws -- including the Coast Guard Administration Law (海岸巡防法), the Defense Law (國防法), the Defense Organization Law (國防部組織法), the National Stabilization Fund Law (國家安定基金設置及管理條例) and Temporary Statute for 921 Earthquake Reconstruction (震災重建暫行條例).

After a break that lasted several hours, the meeting resumed yesterday afternoon to pass another 12 laws.

Legislative Yuan officials announced that 96 laws were passed in the entire session, compared to 61 in the previous one.

All three party caucus leaders made an announcement to explain their efforts in helping pass the laws and to express their expectations for the next session.

"To prove that we are determined to carry out reforms, the `sunshine laws' will be our priority," Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), KMT caucus leader, said.

Tseng stressed that caucus leaders from all parties had signed a statement promising to pass four new laws on Feb. 22.

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