Knesset, Treasury aim to set limits to avoid bloated gov't budgets

Knesset, Treasury aim to

Six months after the Knesset passed the largest Economic Arrangements Law ever, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin revealed Tuesday that a joint forum of Knesset and Treasury representatives had been established to help ensure that that record will not be broken in the future. Rivlin announced, during an event on the subject of social legislation, that the joint forum was formed to better define the nature of the Economic Arrangements Law. "The government must return to normative legislative practices instead of concentrating most of its forces on a blitz known as the Economic Arrangements Law," complained Rivlin, who objected to the enormity of the 2,000-page law passed during the Knesset's summer session. "The law in its current form, is anti-democratic and anti-social," added Rivlin during the Tuesday morning meeting. "It changed from being a means to being an end in itself, a draconian law that cancels, with a swipe of the hand, private legislation that passed, with great effort, all of the stages of legislation." "The government must offer an opinion regarding the necessary balance between the need to achieve budgetary goals, which is a legitimate goal, and the illegitimate practice of stuffing the law with revolutionary economic reforms or annulment of laws, while taking advantage of the... threat of elections if the bill is not passed," he said. This year, said Rivlin, even the Finance Ministry has come to realize that the current system is problematic and that boundaries must be set for ensuing budgetary years. The fact that the budget passed this summer is biennial, Rivlin argued, provides an ideal opportunity to discuss practices in further years, as there is over a year left to determine better procedures before a new budget needs to be passed. Shortly after the formation of the new Knesset, Rivlin was among the first MKs - and was the first coalition member - to speak out against the over 500-clause-long original draft of the bill. "We must prevent a situation in which the law is used as a tool by the government to pass reforms that they cannot pass using the usual and complicated legislative process," said Rivlin in early May, after a copy of the bill was leaked to MK Shelly Yacimovich, another key opponent. "It is the government's duty to govern, but without bypassing the Knesset. And this principle is still in effect, even though we are in the midst of a global economic crisis that demands governmental steps, some of which must be carried out immediately," he said. Ultimately, Rivlin utilized his power as Knesset speaker to broker an agreement with the finance minister through which a number of clauses of the Economic Arrangements Bill were separated from the bill for separate committee hearings and votes. Among the clauses separated from the bill to allow for more in-depth debate were the Israel Lands Authority reform, the establishment of a fifth health insurance group and the reform in the television market. An agreement was also reached through which legislation will not be canceled by the bill, and the clause that canceled a newly-minted law to place resuscitation equipment in public places was removed completely.