(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Between rubber-stamp legislation and infuriating the coalition by voting down clauses, committee chairmen have a third option – namely, taking specific clauses of the Economic Arrangements Bill and separating them from the massive legislation.
Separation from the bill, which is usually approved in its final votes along strict lines of coalition discipline, guarantees a much more uncertain route for the newly independent legislation.
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If there were those in the coalition who feared that Carmel Shama-Hacohen’s (Likud) populist leanings would be felt when he took over as chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, they could find ample material in his first week in office to confirm their concerns. His committee was a hub this week for splitting off controversial clauses, including changes to the composition of the Oil Council and raising the tariff for television ownership.
Shama-Hacohen denied that he effectively tabled any changes to the Oil Council, promising that the subject would be brought back to his committee for debate immediately after the budget passed the Knesset. After two days of hearings, the committee voted on Wednesday to delay any vote on the government’s proposal to increase the number of council members from nine to 13. Much of the debate centered around the appointment of a representative from the Environmental Protection Ministry to the panel. The ministry currently has an observer, but not a representative, on the council.
“I had no choice but to split the chapter from the rest of the bill,” Shama-Hacohen explained.
“After the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it is clear that the council’s composition as proposed in the Economic Arrangements Bill is lacking, and thus the appropriate way to fix it and to vary it is with a little green and by ensuring representation of both safety and ecological interests.”
His committee also voted to separate out an additional clause of the Economic Arrangements Bill that sought to raise the current television ownership tariffs.
The Economic Affairs Committee was not, however, the only committee to threaten to split clauses away from the larger bill. The Finance Committee threatened Monday to separate out for further debate a clause that would have enabled the Israel Lands Authority to remove without legal process any lessee who has held a property for more than seven years. The committee had held a series of debates on the clause, with a wide coalition consisting of Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), Haim Oron (Meretz) and Shai Hermesh (Kadima) all opposing the planned amendment.
After Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism)
threatened that he would propose separating the clause if the Treasury
failed to come to an agreement with the MKs, negotiations were held and
the split was averted.
A split was not, however, averted, in the Labor, Welfare and Health
Committee, where committee members unanimously voted to separate a plan
to establish a clearing house for financial data from the Economic
Arrangements Bill. In that case, both Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak
Cohen and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin were instrumental in the
negotiations, through which Committee Chairman MK Haim Katz (Likud)
promised to complete hearings on the legislation by the end of January.