The legislative session that ended in June managed to pass relatively few bills, but lawmakers will get a chance to raise productivity in a special summer session.
The Fifth Session of the Fifth Legislative Yuan (LY), which ended June 11, was the least productive of this LY, with only 55 laws passed. That record is not surprising considering the many distractions during that period -- the presidential election campaign, demonstrations over the disputed outcome of that election, and maneuvering for nominations for the year-end legislative balloting. A special session will be called during the summer recess to review some priority bills.
Among the main pieces of legislation passed in the Fifth Session were:
* The "Labor Pension Statute," as reported in the June TOPICS. After 14 years of deliberation, the labor pension system has been restructured.
* Extension of the Financial Restructuring Fund (sometimes called the RTC fund) for another year, until July 9, 2005. But the "Statute Governing the Establishment and Management of the Financial Restructuring Fund" must still be amended to determine the scope and exit mechanism for the fund.
* The "Special Statute for Expanding Investment in Public Construction," providing the legal foundation for the 10 major infrastructure projects (amounting to NT$500 billion over five years). Annual budgetary bills for the projects will still need to be approved.
* The "Central Government Organic Law," a landmark achievement in government re-engineering by downsizing from the current 35 ministries to 17. Its passage may build momentum for passing two other government re-engineering bills -- a law governing the number of Central Government personnel and an organic law for the Executive Yuan.
* The "Political Donations Law," one of several "sunshine laws" that have been proposed to improve transparency in the political process. The law stipulates that government officials and elected representatives may accept political donations only during the official campaign period. The law also sets a cap on the amount that may be donated. Other "sunshine laws" still to come up for a vote are the "Political Party Law" and the "Lobbying Law."
Some progress was also made during this session regarding parliamentary reform -- particularly reduction in the size of the body -- three years after the issue was first raised at the time of December 2001 LY election. In the Fifth Session, the party caucuses finally began to discuss this topic, but reached consensus on only one point -- to cut the number of seats from the current 225 to 113 starting from the Seventh Legislature. There is still no consensus on another important issue -- how to change electoral constituencies from multi-seat to single-seat districts.
Another noteworthy development was the appointment of a number of prominent Democratic Progressive Party legislators to government positions in the second Chen Shui-bian Administration, indicating that the ruling party looks to the LY as a major source of talent. Lawmakers shifted to new posts were Cho Jung-tai -- Deputy Secretary-general, Office of the President; Parris Chang -- Deputy Secretary-general, National Security Council; Chen Chung-shin -- Advisor, National Security Council; Chen Chi-mai -- Spokesman, Executive Yuan; Luo Wen-jia -- Chairman, Hakka Affairs Commission; Chiu Tai-san -- Vice Chairman, Mainland Affairs Council, and Lai Chin-lin -- Vice Chairman, Council of Labor Affairs.