Knesset approves compromise version of Child Care Law

Also, bill to change structure of Israel Lands Administration separated from budget votes.

knesset plenum 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
knesset plenum 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the Knesset entered the final three days toward approving the 2009/10 state budget, the opposition scored two partial victories on Monday - an unquestionable achievement in a process viewed as a test of the coalition's strength. Prior to the beginning of a planned almost 24-hour filibuster of the Economic Arrangements Bill, the Knesset approved a compromise version of the Child Care Law. The legislation, which was finally hammered out on Sunday in the Finance Committee, will offer a tax credit point or negative income tax to working mothers, and will also increase state subsidies for maintaining day care centers as well as for building new ones. The Finance Ministry had sought to block the bill entirely, and - when faced with opposition from within the coalition itself - attempted to delay the reimbursements until 2015, but to no avail. The second partial victory for the opposition was the separation of the bill to change the structure of the Israel Lands Administration from the budget votes. Originally, the ILA reform, which included the controversial exchange of Jewish National Fund land in the Central region for property in the periphery, and the sale of the land in the Center, was slated to pass as part of the Economic Arrangements Bill. The votes on the state budget and the Economic Arrangements Bill are traditionally divided along coalition-opposition lines, and so in separating the measures, the opposition removed some of the pressure on the many coalition MKs who oppose the ILA reform. Instead, the reform is likely to be voted upon in the coming week, and a number of coalition lawmakers may vote against the bill if it remains in its current form. In response to the Economic Arrangement Bill's arrival on the house floor for its second and third (final) votes, the opposition mounted a choreographed filibuster, in which every opposition legislator is to take the stand for periods ranging from six to 30 minutes to present their opposition to the bill. Opposition and coalition agreed that by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the filibuster would be concluded, and MKs would spend the rest of the afternoon - until an estimated 9 p.m. - voting on the hundreds of clauses in the package. Wednesday's schedule is devoted to the state budget, which is expected to be presented, and then approved by midnight. The budget has dominated the brief summer Knesset session, which is slated to end on July 30. In the remaining two weeks of the Knesset session, the coalition will try to push forward a number of controversial bills, including the "Gafni Law" which passed a key Education Committee vote on Monday, and the "Mofaz Law," which has been delayed as a result of an agreement reached between Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and the opposition. The so called Gafni Law would require local governments to provide 100 percent subsidies for the haredi school systems, and not for other independent schools, despite the fact that the schools sponsored by United Torah Judaism and Shas do not teach courses required for government-sponsored schools. The so-called Mofaz Law which would change the rules so a rebel Knesset faction would only need seven MKs to break away from a party, as opposed to the current prerequisite of a third of its legislators, and is seen as designed to allow Kadima rebels to join the coalition.