Fri, Jan 18, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Opposition forces through key bills

MARATHON SITTING As legislators pull out all the stops to pass outstanding bills before the end of the current session, the opposition alliance made key gains on cross-strait travel policy and tax reforms

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

KMT legislative caucus whip Lee Cheng-chong, left, Legislative Yuan vice speaker Yao Eng-chi, center, and DPP legislative caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang yesterday argue over the priority of bills still awaiting review. The legislative session ends today. Any bills not passed must be reintroduced from their first reading in the next session.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Cashing in on their numerical superiority, the opposition parties last night forced through crucial legal revisions that the DPP government warned would hamper its smooth and effective functioning.

During a marathon session that started yesterday morning and will last until this morning, the opposition alliance -- despite protests from DPP legislators -- made law a proposal to allow Taiwanese people to enter China via offshore islands.

Outgoing KMT lawmaker Chao Erh-chung (曹爾忠), the main proponent of the bill, said the legislation aims to expand the scope of the "small three links" opening early last year.

DPP legislative whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) sarcastically painted the reform as the last work of Chao, as he lost his seat representing the outlying island of Kinmen in the Dec. 1 elections.

Opposition lawmakers also succeeded in pushing through a disputed legal overhaul that will enable local governments to keep a greater share of tax revenues. Led by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), local KMT administrators say the tax reform is necessary to ease their financial woes.

But top government statistician Lin Chuan (林全) has warned against the measure, saying it would upset the country's overall financial structure.

Ma called a news conference at 10pm to thank the lawmaking body for adopting the legislation. Earlier in the day, chaotic wrangling virtually paralyzed the legislature, as lawmakers eager to push their pet bills up the agenda bickered over the order of business hammered out by caucus leaders.

Responding to a top mobilization order, over 130 lawmakers of all political stripes took part in the session. The high attendance rate did little to expedite the legislative process that was frequently disrupted by members whose bills risk being scrapped because they are not branded "priority."

The current session will fold before noon today, as the legislature has set aside the afternoon for outgoing legislators to deliver their farewell speeches.

As of 4:30pm, the body passed only two legal overhauls intended to halve capital gains tax on property for two years, as suggested by last year's Economic Development Advisory Conference to revive the domestic real-estate market.

The measure, lobbied for by leading industrialists, is expected to shrink local government coffers by NT$22 billion a year. The Cabinet has pledged to make up the shortfall.

Leaders from all caucuses spent the entire morning and early afternoon seeking to carve out an agenda for the remaining session.

They struck a deal to first review bills the Cabinet and all caucuses labeled as urgent, to be followed by a vote this morning on controversial items in the 2002 fiscal budget.

If time allows, the agreement said, the legislature may take up proposals to establish a financial supervisory board, look after soldiers who fought in 1958 cross-strait warfare and spare accountants already in practice the trouble of gaining certification.

The agreement drew vehement protests from members who strove to score points before their tenure expires at the end of this month.

"It makes no sense to put so-called uncontroversial bills on the backburner," said KMT legislator Chiang Yi-wen (江綺雯). "The tag will deny them the chance of being passed in light of the current time constraint."

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