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Bills on cellular antennas, Holocaust reparations and standardized road signs have been pushed through as the Knesset enters the home stretch for its final day Wednesday.
MKs worked at breakneck speed to push through legislation before they go on recess Wednesday. While the Knesset would vote on six to seven bills on an average day, dozens of bills crowded the daily rosters this week with dozens more vying for spots. Only bills that pass a second reading will remain on the books to be voted into laws, bills that fail to meet this requirement will be wiped from the books to start anew in the 17th Knesset.
The Knesset will end its winter session Wednesday after only 54 days, instead of continuing for an additional three months. Speaker Reuven Rivlin called for the recess following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's move to disperse the Knesset. Early elections have been set and MKs do not focus on the legislation process when their reelection is at hand, said Rivlin.
Rivlin also expressed fear that MKs were more likely to push through costly populist bills, a fear that many feel has been substantiated in the past week.
The Knesset will vote on several bills that will cost the government hundreds of millions of shekels. A bill proposed by MK Eliezer Cohen (National Union) would give polio victims over 40 years of age a pension of NIS 7000 per month for the rest of their lives. A project proposed by MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) would slate NIS 200 million for an in institution for at-risk children. And the Holocaust reparations bill, which is expected to pass a third reading Wednesday, would create a company that has been estimated to require NIS 32 million per year.
"Nobody wants to be seen as holding back a bill that helps polio or Holocaust victims," said an official in the Knesset spokesman's office. "There are important humanitarian efforts. It just doesn't look good to go against them around election time."
Bills requiring more than NIS 5 million are required to pass by at least 51 MKs. Normally, the government would be able to block costly bills through its coalition in the Knesset. However, because of the withdrawal of the Labor party from the government and the splitting off of Sharon's Kadima party, no coalition was formed.
Even with the sped-up process, hundreds of bills that do not pass a first reading will be wiped from the books.
The 2006 budget, which the Knesset was set to approve this session hangs in limbo, with Finance Minister Ehud Olmert refusing to bring it to the Knesset floor where, he said, there is no majority for it to pass.
Instead, the state will operate on the 2005 budget for the first three months of 2006, and evaluate the following months on a case-by-case basis.
Several MKs, including a spokesman for the Finance Committee were quick to point out the difficulties in this system considering changes, such as the new Negev and Galilee programs that were launched recently but would receive no funding according the 2005 budget.
| Notable legislature recently passed|
The Knesset plenum passed several amendments to the Parties Law, lifting restrictions on the way in which campaign donations can be raised. Donations for party primary campaigns may be received from non-Israeli citizens, although they will still be banned from donating to national campaigns. The limit on total donations was also raised from NIS 800,000 to NIS 2 million.
Terminally ill patients can request that their doctors not artificially extend their lives, under the newly passed Passive Euthanasia Law. The law will come into effect in a year's time, and the Ministry of Health and hospitals will begin preparations for its application.
Cellular companies will have to advise the public from now on of the installation of new antennas, and municipalities will have the authority to forbid the installation of such antennas, according to a new bill passed by the Knesset. Cellular companies will also need to compensate home owners for the devaluation of their real estate due to proximity of the antennas.
The Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv
will receive funding and resources according to a new law passed to support the museum. The museum nearly shut down in 2003 due to financial difficulties.
All road signs in Israel
will have standardized spelling under a new bill passed to clear up the frequent spelling mixups on Israel's roads.
All nightclub and restaurant owners who play music will have to install a "noise meter" to make sure that the volume does not surpass a healthy noise decibel level regulated by the Health and Environment ministries.
Auto and off-road racing were legalized following the passing of the Motorized
Regulations of this law will be determined in the next nine months.
As of January 1 all car, truck and motorcycle owners must carry a florescent vest in their vehicles at all times following a new law aimed at improving driver safety.