The Knesset “cleaned its table” on Tuesday – the secondto- last day of its winter session – voting bills into law on topics from education to taxes to transportation.

“Cleaning the table” refers to the attempt to pass most bills on the Knesset’s docket before it goes to recess. The Passover recess will officially begin on Sunday, and the summer session will start May 12.

An amendment to The Planning and Construction Law was passed Tuesday night. The legislation decentralizes planning powers to streamline and shorten procedures by transferring significant powers to local committees instead of regional panels.

It also shortens the process of receiving permits for minor construction. In addition, the bill requires that projects include affordable housing, by requiring the building of small apartments and providing incentives for constructing long-term rental housing.

Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) said she was “excited that affordable housing is passing [into] law.... Now the ball is in the government’s and planning committees’ court, and I hope they take advantage of this great opportunity.”

She added that “Finance Minister Yair Lapid had courage to not block this bill, as opposed to the previous finance minister, who was from my party [Yuval Steinitz] and who obstructed it four times. I want to commend the finance minister for not being afraid of bureaucrats.

Finally there are ministers who say, ‘You work for me, and I make the decisions.’” One of the new laws makes it illegal for schools to discriminate against pupils because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who proposed the bill, pointed out that it was the first bill to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Another new law will allow the cancellation of fixed-term transactions, like time shares or gym memberships, at any time. The customer will have to pay for use of the service until the date of cancellation, plus half the price of the time left to the deal.

Yet another law that passed increases the penalty for squatting on farmland, from three months to six months in prison.

If the owner of the farmland did not take reasonable measures to prevent illegal entry, the penalty will be three months’ incarceration, instead of one month or NIS 30,000.

“We are changing the law in order to change reality,” Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, who proposed the bill, said after it passed. “We are increasing deterrence in order to reduce the phenomenon [of incursions into farmland] and strengthen the police’s hand in dealing with such cases. It’s important to protect Israeli farmers and Israeli agriculture, which is the basis of our society, economy and state. The law will defend one of the clear symbols of Zionism.”

Also on Tuesday, the Knesset passed an extension to the existing law that anyone who illegally drives a foreign resident into Israel will face two years in prison or have to pay a fine. Cab drivers will have to ask passengers to show documentation proving they can enter Israel. The law will apply until 2016.

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