Thu, May 19, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Assembly, casino bills get the nod

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

After hours of negotiations, lawmakers across party lines yesterday finally agreed to set the ratification threshold for constitutional amendments and territorial changes at 75 percent.

The accord should guarantee the passage of the statute on the National Assembly's exercise of power (國大職權行使法) during Friday's plenary legislative session.

Meanwhile, the legislature's Home and Nations Committee yesterday passed the preliminary review of the draft amendments to the Offshore Islands Development Law (離島建設條例), marking a step forward toward the legalization of casinos on outlying islands such as Penghu, Kinmen or Matsu.

Some of the controversial articles in the draft amendments, however, were put aside for further cross-party negotiation and possible public hearings before the bill proceeds to the plenary legislative session for its second and third reading.

Yesterday's multiparty negotiations, presided over by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), on the Assembly's exercise of power concluded that the body's confirmation threshold for constitutional amendments should be three-quarters, or 75 percent of the Assembly.

The threshold for approving territorial changes will require the presence of two-thirds of the Assembly's members, and the consent of three-fourths of those members. A simple majority of the Assembly members is required for the impeachment of the president and vice president.


Regarding the establishment of casinos on outlying islands, independent Legislator Lin Pin-kun (林炳坤), who represents the Penghu constituency, was beside himself with indignation when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Chuang-chin (邱創進) requested a public hearing to solicit public opinions about the issue before the committee began yesterday's review session.

"I am telling you, if the DPP keeps boycotting this bill like you are now, you will lose every single vote in the [Penghu] constituency," Lin said.

Undaunted by Lin's threat, Chiu said that many bills concerning people's livelihood proposed by his caucus have also been rejected by the pan-blue alliance. They include the statute governing the 2008 Taiwan Expo, the special arms procurement plan and budget, and the five-year, NT$500 billion Ten Major Construction Projects package.


The DPP caucus argues that legalizing casinos on outlying islands is not the answer to those communities' economic woes. It contends that the legalization of gambling will adversely affect business in other trades, hurt natural resources and make gambling a permanent fixture of life on outlying islands.

Chang Ching-sen (張景森), vice chairman of the Cabinet's Council for Economic Planning and Development, however, said that the Executive Yuan will respect the final decision of the legislature and make an effort to help establish casinos in special tourism districts on outlying islands should the amendments pass into law.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also supports the bill and appeared upbeat about its passage.

He told Penghu residents and officials appealing to him on Tuesday that if the government issues only two licenses to establish casinos in special tourism districts on outlying islands, his understanding was that they might go to Penghu and Kinmen.

The bill managed to pass committee review during the last legislature, but failed to pass the third reading on the final day of the last session.

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