Report on Senate Activity in 2002

This report carries on from the previous report on Senate Activity and surveys the Senate’s activity from 1 January 2002 to the end of the Senate’s Third Period of Office (4 December 2002, i.e. the opening of the first meeting of the Senate in the Fourth Period of Office after the regular Senate elections in November 2002).

Here you will find a full summary of the Senate’s legislative activity in 2002 .

The Senate had 10 meetings during this period. Altogether the Senators gave their approval (or more precisely, gave their approval to the ratification of) 34 international treaties and considered 140 bills, of which 3 bills were draft Constitutional Bills. Of these 3 draft Constitutional Bills, 1 was passed by the Senate (a referendum regarding accession to the EU, originally a Senate Bill), 2 were defeated (a general/public referendum and the so-called “small” security amendment to the Constitution, a Chamber of Deputies proposal), whereby these 2 bills were not approved.

From the remaining 137 bills put before the Senate, 39 were approved. In the cases of 59 bills, the Senate expressed its resolve not to deal with these.

The Senate returned 25 of the bills to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments. In 19 cases the Chamber of Deputies agreed with the Senate’s wording, in another 5 cases the bills were accepted in the Chamber of Deputies’ original language, and in 1 case a bill that included the wording returned from the Senate was not accepted.

In addition to the 2 Constitutional Bills, the Senate rejected 9 other bills during the period under consideration. In 3 instances the Chamber of Deputies adhered to its original wording, and in 6 cases the bills were not approved.

In 5 cases the Senate adopted no resolution, and after the lapse of the time prescribed by law these bills were therefore deemed to have been accepted.

Overall, then, the Senate in 2002 considered 140 bills, 40 of which were approved, in 59 cases it expressed its will not to deal with the bills, 25 were returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, 11 bills were rejected, and 5 were adopted without a resolution.

Graf

Of the 25 bills that the Senate returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, 19 were approved with the Senate’s language (i.e. 67%), 5 in the language of the Chamber of Deputies (i.e. 26%) and 1 bill was not accepted (i.e. 7%).

Graf

For the entire Third Period of Office the Senate considered 251 bills, of which 7 were Constitutional Bills and 69 were international treaties.

The Senate approved 74 bills, including 3 draft Constitutional Bills, expressed its will not to deal with 94 bills, and in 9 cases not to pass resolutions.

The Senate returned 58 bills with proposed amendments, 1 of which was a draft Constitutional Bill. Of these, the Chamber of Deputies approved 36 of the bills in the language of the Senate (including the 1 Constitutional Bill), in its own original wording it approved 18 bills and 3 bills were not accepted.

The Senate rejected 16 bills, including 3 draft Constitutional Bills. In its reconsideration, the Chamber of Deputies in 6 cases voted to reaffirm its original wording, and in 10 cases bills were not approved.

Overall, the Senate after the first six years of its activities considered 210 international treaties and 589 bills, of which it approved 230, in 167 cases it expressed its will not to deal with the bills, 143 bills it returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, 29 it rejected and in 19 cases it did not adopt a resolution.

Of 143 bills that the Senate returned with proposed amendments to the Chamber of Deputies since 1996, the Chamber of Deputies passed 89 bills in the wording approved by the Senate, which represents more than 60% of those bills returned and fewer than 70% of the proposed amendments (ca 900 from more than 1,300). The Senate veto was not overturned in 15 cases, i.e. approximately 50% of the time.

Following is more detailed information about bills considered by the Senate during 2002:

In March, the Senate considered a bill concerning compensation for people who had been abducted to the USSR. The objective of the law was to propose compensation for Czechoslovak citizens deported during the period 1944-1955 to forced labour camps in the USSR and other countries (Senate Document No. 195). The Senate passed the bill with proposed amendments because the proposed settlement was not consistent – and even was in conflict – with other rules of law. The Chamber of Deputies, however, passed the original bill.

In the same meeting, the Senate also returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments a bill concerning changes in several transportation laws. This bill included a set of amendments for 4 laws: the Act on Road Transport, the Act on Railroads (improvements in the conditions regarding enforceability of fares) the Act on Conditions of Operating Vehicles on Overland Communications (renewing the maximum age for operating a motor vehicle), and the Act on Professional Qualifications to Drive a Motor Vehicle (Senate Document No. 207). The Chamber of Deputies eventually agreed with the proposed amendments and passed the bill in the Senate’s wording.

Another bill that was taken up at the March meeting of the Senate and that was returned to the House of Deputies with proposed amendments was the proposal for the fourth amendment to the Act on Advertising Regulation ( Senate Document No. 211). The amendment included, among other things, a provision about banning of advertising, specifying the limitation on influencing minors, delineating the activity of advertising for human medical preparations, regulating the content of advertising for medical remedies, foodstuffs and infant food. At the same time, the bill changed and amended the wording in the Act on Radio and Television Broadcasting and the Act on Medical Products. The bill was approved in the wording referred by the Chamber of Deputies.

In the following meeting the Senate took up for consideration a bill regarding the civil service whose aim was to create conditions for the existence of an effective and non-political state administration. Its objective is to reorganise the legal relations of state employees, the organisational aspects of the civil service, the remuneration of state employees and other employees in the administrative agencies (Senate Document No. 246). The concept of the proposal starts from the premise that the legal status of employees who are in administrative agencies carrying out the state administration will be completely revised by this regulation and the general regulation will applied only in explicitly established cases. The Senate approved the bill in the language referred to it by the Chamber of Deputies.

In connection with the civil service bill it was necessary to update 49 laws, which was the subject of another bill (Senate Document No. 247). The bill was returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, and with which the Chamber of Deputies agreed.

In April 2002 the Senate took up a bill concerning the workers in the municipal administrative units ( Senate Document No. 268), which is part of the second stage reform of the public administration and should serve to create a legal framework for that reform. The goal of this proposal is to institute a system whereby municipal administrative authorities enjoy greater independence and to create a legal basis for their training. The Senate approved the bill with proposed amendments, with which the Chamber of Deputies eventually agreed, and the bill passed with the Senate’s wording.

A proposed transplantation law gave rise to controversial debate (Senate Document No. 328). This bill included new and comprehensive regulation regarding questions of extractions and transplantation as well as protecting patients’ rights. The regulation in force hitherto was only very briefly delimited in the Act on Human Health and in sub-statutory regulations. The bill’s aim was to strengthen the legal safeguards for proper procedures in extractions, to ensure mandatory registration of candidates, donors and recipients and to create the conditions for creating an independent co-ordinating centre and a register of non-donors. The Senate eventually passed the bill in the language referred to it by the Chamber of Deputies.

The bill that perhaps drew the most media attention in 2002 was the bill regarding credit financing for Gripen aircraft. (Senate Document No. 334). The bill was separated into several parts. The first part dealt with the basic financing of the acquisitions, and the other parts were amendments to, for example, the acts on Foreign Trade in Military Materials and on Public Procurement. The Senate Bill was considered at the end of the second quarter and it was rejected in light of the amount of the loan and the overall ambiguity with regard to the country’s defence policy. Later, just ahead of the elections, the Chamber of Deputies turned down the bill in its original wording and the bill was not approved.

In September the Senate considered a Constitutional Bill for a referendum (Senate Document No. 196 ). The intent of the proposal was to establish a way for the people to exercise state power directly. The bill combined the legal form of a referendum in general and a special referendum for the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union. After debating this bill, the Senate rejected it.

In November the Senate considered and approved the draft Amendatory Act on the Social and Legal Protection of Children (Senate Document No. 364 ), whose purpose was especially to correct errors that had occurred in the extensive amendment of that Act as effected by Act No. 320/2002 Coll. (on Abolishing District Offices). Within the scope of the earlier amendment, for example, there were reports that some district office competencies had been inappropriately transferred only to municipalities with widened authority, and that some inspection functions were not transferred; the current amendment attempted to remedy these errors. Another part of the bill was a proposal to change the law on Organizing and Executing Social Security on the basis of an amendment to laws concerning the judicial system.

THE SO-CALLED EURO-AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION AND
CONSIDERATION OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

On 1 June 2002 there came into effect the so-called Euro-Amendment to the Constitution of the Czech Republic (Constitutional Act No. 395/2001 Coll.), which, among other things, in its Article 10 stipulated that “the proclaimed international treaties to the ratification of which the Parliament gave its consent and by which the Czech Republic is bound, are part of the legal order; where the international treaty establishes something other than does the law, the international treaty applies”. Article 49 or the Constitution of the Czech Republic was at the same time amended, and it now reads: “For the ratification of international agreements

  1. governing rights and duties of persons,
  2. of alliance, peace, or other political treaties,
  3. which result in the membership of the Czech Republic in an international organization,
  4. that are economic of a general nature,
  5. on other issues to be governed by the law,

the approval of both Chambers of Parliament is necessary.

In the Constitution, thereby, the parallel nature of the ratification and legislative processes was repealed.

After approval of the Amendment to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, the Senate Permanent Commission on the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures put forward in October 2001 a draft Senate Constitutional Bill to amend Act No. 107/1999 Coll., on the Senate Rules of Procedure (Senate Document No. 120).

In December this bill was approved and referred to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 1189. In May 2002 the Chamber of Deputies referred back the Senate Bill with proposed amendments. The Senate rejected the bill in July 2002. At the same time the Senate approved the More Detailed Rules of Procedure of the Senate and its Bodies When Considering International Treaties, which now govern the consideration of international treaties (Senate Document No. 343).

Consideration of 4 Senate Bills continued in 2002

In May 2001 the Senate Permanent Commission on the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures put forward a draft Senate Constitutional Bill on a Referendum for the Entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union and the Amendment of Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, as subsequently amended (Senate Document No. 58 ). In June this bill was approved and referred to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 996). In February 2002 consideration of the bill was suspended, and the bill was not taken up again before the end of the Chamber of Deputies’ electoral term.

At the beginning of June 2001, a draft Senate Bill was put forward by Senators Milan Šimonovský, Daniel Kroupa, Robert Kolář, Jiří Šenkýř, Helena Rögnerová and others to amend Act No. 247/1995 Coll., on Elections to the Parliament of the Czech Republic and the Amendment and Modification of Certain Other Acts, as amended by Act No. 212/1996 Coll., the Constitutional Court Ruling published under No. 243/1999 Coll., Act No. 204/2000 Coll. and the Constitutional Court ruling published under No. 64/2001 Coll., and on the Amendment to Act No. 424/1991 Coll., on the Association of Political Parties and Political Movements, as amended by Act No. 468/1991 Coll., Act No. 68/1993 Coll., Act No. 189/1993 Coll., Act No. 117/1994 Coll., the Constitutional Court ruling published under No. 296/1995, Act No. 322/1996 Coll., Act No. 340/2000 Coll., the Constitutional Court finding published under No. 98/2001 Coll., and Act No. 104/2001 Coll. (Senate Document No. 77 ). In August 2001 it was approved by the Senate and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 1022). The Chamber of Deputies approved the bill in April of the following year, then referred it to the Senate, which also approved it. The Act was promulgated in the Collection of Laws under No. 230/2002 Coll. in June 2002.

At the beginning of August 2001, a draft Senate Bill was put forward by Senator Robert Kolář and others to amend Act No. 219/2000 Coll., on the Property of the Czech Republic and its Representation in Legal Relations, as amended by later regulations (Senate Document No. 102). The bill was approved and in December 2001 it was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 1207). The bill was not considered before the end of the Chamber of Deputies’ electoral term.

In October 2001, the Senate Permanent Commission for the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures submitted a Permanent Commission for the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 107/1999 Coll., on the Senate Rules of Procedure (Senate Document No. 120). In December 2001 this bill was approved and referred to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 1189). The Chamber of Deputies referred the Senate Bill back with proposed amendments. The Senate rejected the bill in July 2002.

During 2002, nine Senate initiatives were presented to the Senate President. Five of these were, during the course of consideration in Senate committees, withdrawn by their initiators. In the case of one bill (direct election of the President) no resolution was accepted. The Senate postponed its consideration of another bill (an amendment to the Criminal Code). Of two Senate Bills referred to the Chamber of Deputies, the first (an amendment to the Law on Free Access to Information) was rejected in its first reading, and the second (a referendum on accession to the European Union) was approved by the Chamber of Deputies, and eventually by the Senate as well, and promulgated in the Collection of Laws.

(Information on the status of bills under consideration is current as of 25 February 2003; further information can be found under the links in the respective Senate documents.)

In January 2002 a draft Senate Bill was put forward by Senator Jiří Šenkýř and others to amend Act No. 115/2001 Coll., on Subsidies for Sport (Senate Document No. 174). The subject of the bill was to change (amend) three provisions of Act No. 115/2001 Coll., on Subsidies for Sport. The bill was withdrawn by its initiators in April 2002.

Concurrently, Senator Jiří Šenkýř and others submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 133/1985 Coll., on Fire Protection, as amended by later regulations ( Senate Document No. 175), which regulates the independent competence of municipalities in the area of fire protection. The bill was withdrawn by its initiators in April 2002.

On 31 January 2002, a draft Senate Bill was submitted by Senator Robert Kolář and others to amend Act No. 140/1961 Coll., the Criminal Code, in the wording of later regulations (Senate Document No. 180). The group of Senators proposed that the matter of “slander”, in the meaning of Section 154 paragraph 2 (abusive insult or slander of a state administrative body during the execution of its authority, or an insult directed at a body because of this execution) and in the meaning of Section 206 (revealing untruthful information capable of causing serious damage to another) be deleted (repealed) from the Criminal Code. The bill was withdrawn by its initiators in March 2002.

In March, Senator Jan Hadrava and others submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 326/1999 Coll., on the Residence of Foreigners on the Territory of the Czech Republic and on amending other laws in the wording of Act No. 140/2001 Coll. (Senate Document No. 230 ). The bill was withdrawn by its initiators.

Senate Document No. 232 was submitted on 15 March 2002. It concerns a draft Senate Bill from Senator Tomáš Julínek and others to change the delimitations of the regional boundaries. The proposal submitted relates to Constitutional Act No. 347/1997 Coll., on Creating Higher Territorial Administrative Units, which delimits the territory of established regions as per the district territorial boundaries in effect on 1 January 2000 while concurrently introducing a provision that a law must be enacted in order to alter regional boundaries. The draft Senate Bill, in the provisions of sections 1 through 7, makes changes to the territorial boundaries of nine regions and the capital city of Prague. In provisions of the bill’s Section 8, elected members of regional councils who, because of the proposed changes in territorial boundaries no longer fulfil the condition of holding permanent residency status in the region in which they were elected, will be able to retain their mandates. This amendment is necessary because of the wording of Section 5 paragraph 1 and Section 48 paragraph 3, letter b) of Act No. 130/2000 Coll., on Elections to Regional Councils, according to which a council member taking up residence outside of the region he/she represents will lose his/her mandate due to a concurrent loss of eligibility. The bill was withdrawn by its initiators.

Senate Document No. 288 was submitted by Senator Michael Žantovský and others. The draft Senate Bill of Senator Michael Žantovský and others changes and amends Act No. 106/99 Coll., on Free Access to Information, Act No. 344/1992 Coll., on the Land Registry of the Czech Republic (The Cadastral Act), Act No. 200/90 Coll., on Misdemeanours and Act No. 101/2000 Coll., on the Protection of Personal Data. The bill guarantees universal and equal access to information for all persons without limitations, such as those requiring proof of a special interest in obtaining the information. The procedure for providing information instituted by Act No. 106/1999 Coll. is to subsequently be used in all cases where the respective law contains no specific provision on the method for providing information. The bill was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies on 17 July 2002 and was distributed to members of Parliament as document 9/0 of 24 July 2002. The President of the Chamber of Deputies recommended that the bill be taken up on 5 September 2002. He designated Deputy Taťána Fischerová as rapporteur and also proposed to order that the bill be taken up in a petitionary committee. The Chamber of Deputies rejected the bill in its first reading on 8 October.

Senate Document No. 289, a draft Senate Constitutional Bill from Senators Robert Kolář, Milan Šimonovský and others, amends Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, in the wording of Constitutional Act No. 347/1997 Coll. and Constitutional Act No. 300/2000 Coll., in which the group of senators proposed instituting direct elections for the office of the President of the Republic. In this respect, the proposal amends the full right to vote enjoyed by each citizen of the Czech Republic older than 18 years of age, establishes basic principles of the right to vote, the announcement of elections, the right to nominate candidates, the legal framework for the direct election of the President, and the delegation of authority for the publication of the law regarding its implementation. The Senate, in its meeting on 19 September, voted on the rejection or passing of the draft bill, and no resolution was passed.

Senate Document No. 337, submitted on 30 May 2002, concerns a draft Senate Bill from Senator Jitka Seitlová and others to amend Act No. 140/1961 Coll., the Criminal Code, as amended by later regulations. The bill as submitted included two changes in the Criminal Code, with the intent to contribute to the resolution of the unhappy social phenomenon of domestic violence. The amendment concerns the addition of the maltreatment of relatives to the description of the punishable act of maltreatment of people under guardianship, as per the meaning of Article 215 of the Criminal Code. The Senate, in its meeting on 19 September, postponed its consideration of the bill by six months.

Senate Document No. 344 is a draft Senate Constitutional Bill on a Referendum Regarding Entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union and amends Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, as amended by later Constitutional Acts. The Bill as submitted is based on the principle that a referendum on the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union must take place, and that the result of the referendum will be binding. Voters in the referendum will be asked to answer the question whether they agree with the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union under the terms outlined in the respective international treaty on accession. In its meeting on 19 September the Senate passed the bill and referred it to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 50). The Chamber of Deputies approved the bill on 17 October and it then proceeded to the Senate, which passed it on 15 November 2002. The law was promulgated in the Collection of Laws under the number 515/2002 Coll.