Report on Senate Activity in 2003
This report carries on from the previous report on the Senate Activity and surveys the Senate’s activity from the opening of the Senate’s Fourth 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) until 31 December 2003.
In the Fourth Period of Office the Senate established the same committees as in the previous periods of office. In addition to the three previously existing standing commissions the Standing Commission on Rural Development was established (more here on the Senate bodies).
As a consequence of his being appointed to the office of the Presiding Judge of the Constitutional Court, on 6 August 2003, the Senate mandate lapsed for Pavel Rychetský (Electoral District No. 12, Senator, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government and Minister of Justice). Upon her appointment also to the Constitutional Court, there lapsed also, on 29 August 2003, the mandate of Dagmar Lastovecká (Electoral District No. 58, Chairwoman of the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, member of the Permanent Senate Commission on the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures). Senator Jaroslav Kubera was elected the new Chairman of the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (from 11 September 2003).
Due to the facts mentioned above, Senate by-elections were held:
- In Electoral District No. 12: Strakonice, 31 October and 1 November 2003 (1st round) and 7-8 November 2003 (2nd round). Mr. Josef Kalbáč, a member of KDU-ČSL (the Christian Democrats) was elected Senator.
- In Electoral District No. 58: City of Brno, 7-8 November 2003 (1st round) and 14-15 November 2003 (2nd round). Mr. Karel Jarůšek, a member of ODS (the Civic Democrats) was elected Senator.
On 5 November 2003 a new “Non-affiliated” Senators club was established. Senator Vladimír Železný was elected its chairman and Senator Jaroslav Doubrava as vice chairman. Senators Rostislav Harazin, Jaroslav Kubín and Eduard Matykiewicz became members. At the club’s founding meeting, the members agreed that the positions of chairman and vice chairman should be passed on a rotation principle in six-months intervals.
The numbers of Senators affiliated in the Senators clubs as of 5 November 2003 are as follow:
|1.||ODS Senators Club:||26|
|2.||Open Democracy Senators Club:||16|
|3.||KDU-ČSL Senators Club:||16|
|4.||ČSSD (Social Democrats) Senators Club:||10|
|5.||Independent Senators Club:||5|
|6.||Non-affiliated Senators Club:||5|
Here you will find a full summary of the Senate’s legislative activity in 2003.
The Senate had 12 meetings during this period. Altogether the Senators gave their approval to the ratification of 38 international treaties and considered 108 bills, of which 1 was a draft Constitutional Bill that the Senate returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments (the so-called judicial amendment to the Constitution). The Chamber of Deputies did not accept these amendments and thus the bill was not passed.
The Senate returned 24 of the bills to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments. In 15 cases the Chamber of Deputies agreed with the Senate’s wording, in another 9 cases the bills were accepted in the Chamber of Deputies’ original wording.
In the period under consideration the Senate rejected 3 bills. In 2 cases the Chamber of Deputies adhered to its original wording, and in 1 case the bill was not approved by the necessary majority and was not passed.
In 6 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 from the beginning of the Fourth Period of Office considered 108 bills, of which 50 were approved (46%), for 24 the Senate expressed its will not to deal with the bills (22%), 25 bills were returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments (23%), 3 bills were rejected (3%) and 5 were adopted without a resolution (6%).
Of the 25 bills that the Senate returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, 15 were approved with the Senate’s language (i.e. 60%), 9 in the language of the Chamber of Deputies (i.e. 36 %) and 1 bill was not passed (i.e. 4 %).
Following is more-detailed information about bills considered by the Senate during 2003:
At their second meeting the Senate considered the Bill on the Elections to the European Parliament, which should allow citizens of the Czech Republic to vote their deputies into the European Parliament. The Senate returned this bill to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments, which were accepted. At present, until the European Parliament elections in June 2004, the members of the national parliaments of the future Member States attend the European Parliament meetings as observers, among them also are 24 Czech lawmakers, of whom seven are Senators.
In March, the Senate returned the Zoo Bill to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments. The Chamber of Deputies adhered to its original wording and so it did again in the case of the veto of the President of the Republic a month later.
Reacting to the finding of the Constitutional Court, the Senate returned to the Chamber of Deputies with proposed amendments the Government’s so-called judicial amendment to the Constitution and the amendment to the Act on Courts and Judges. With regard to the amendment to the Act on Courts and Judges the Chamber of Deputies adhered to its previous wording. In the case of the Constitutional amendment the Chamber did not accept the Senate’s proposed amendments and therefore the Constitutional Bill was not adopted.
The Senate returned to the Chamber of Deputies the Bill on Consumption Taxes. The aim in submitting this bill was to achieve full compatibility between the legal regulation in this country and that of the EU, with the exception of some tariffs for selected products for which the Czech Republic has negotiated an exemption (e.g. exemption for the cigarette tax until 2007) and at the same time to change the revenue collection method, both on the payers’ and on the tax administrator’s sides. The Chamber of Deputies adhered to its original bill.
In 2003 the Senate rejected three bills:
- The Amendatory Act on Land Communications, which regulated the concluding of concessionary contracts in such a way that the Ministry of Transport concluded such contracts in the name of the State upon the Government’s approval and after expressing approval with regard to data stating the financial commitments of the State toward any concessionaire included in the draft agreement by the Chamber of Deputies. The reason for the Senate resolution was in particular the absence of the relevant regulation in the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies, as well as constitutional reasons concerning the principle of separation of powers, which is infringed upon in this act. The executive branch negotiates similar state commitments as are presumed by the bill; the Chamber of Deputies, and sometimes together with the Senate (as in the case of bond financing) approves funding for a given project. Entering into a concessionary contract, albeit perhaps only into its financial part, is an encroachment into an executive decision that is in breach of the Constitution. The Chamber of Deputies nevertheless did not accept the Senate’s objections and passed the Bill in its original wording.
- The Amendatory Act on the Office for Representing the State in Property Matters. The Senate had doubts about the proposed amendment’s conformity with the constitutional order of the Czech Republic. According to this proposal, municipalities are to obtain qualified legal assistance from public funds in litigation, when the opposing party would not be entitled to such assistance. Thereby would be violated the principle of equality of the participants in a legal action that is stipulated by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Also conceivable is that inequities could occur in selecting those municipalities that would receive legal aid, as the Office, and thus the State, could choose in which cases of litigation it would provide municipalities with legal aid. Nevertheless, in this case, too, the Chamber of Deputies adhered to its original wording.
- The Bill on the Conditions for Obtaining and Recognising a Professional Qualification and on Specialised Qualifications to Perform the Health Care Career of a Physician, Dentist or Pharmacist and on Changes in Several Related Acts; The Chamber of Deputies did not overturn the Senate’s veto and thus the Bill was not passed. The Government submitted the Bill again and the Senate passed the same in this form.
During 2003, six Senate initiatives were presented to the Senate President; at the same time there continued consideration of the Senate amendment to the Criminal Code. Two Senate draft bills (a constitutional amendment for direct election of the President and an amendment to the Armed Forces Act) were rejected by the Senate.
(Information on the status of bills under consideration is current as of 1 March 2004; further information on the course of the legislative process can be found under the links to the respective Senate documents.)
During 2003, consideration continued of Senate Document No. 337, which was submitted on 30 May 2002. It concerns a draft Senate bill from senators Jitka Seitlová, Edvard Outrata, Ladislav Svoboda, Josef Jařab, Jaroslav Doubrava, Jaroslava Moserová, Alena Palečková and Soňa Paukrtová to amend Act No. 140/1961 Coll., the Criminal Code, as amended by later regulations. The bill as submitted contains two amendments to the Criminal Code with the intent to contribute to the resolution of the unhappy social phenomenon known as 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 Section 215 of the Criminal Code. The bill was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies in April 2003 (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 298). The Chamber of Deputies passed the Bill with proposed amendments in December 2003 and in early January 2004 referred the same to the Senate (Senate Document No. 256). The Senate passed it in that wording in late January 2004. The Act was promulgated in the Collection of Laws under No. 91/2004 and comes into effect from 1 June 2004.
In January 2003, Senators Helena Rögnerová, Václava Domšová, Jitka Seitlová, Josef Zoser, Josef Zieleniec and others submitted a draft Senate Constitutional Bill to amend Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, as amended by Constitutional Act No. 347/1997 Coll., Constitutional Act No. 300/2000 Coll., Constitutional Act No.395/2001 Coll., and Constitutional Act No. 448/2001 Coll. (Senate Document No. 22). The submitted draft Constitutional Amendment proposed to introduce direct election of the President by the citizens of the Czech Republic. Once elected by the citizens, in the view of the bill’s sponsors, the President would be more independent and would become a Head of State standing above political parties and representing all citizens. The proposed bill did not concern the powers of the President of the Republic, such as to strengthen those powers. After its consideration, the Senate rejected this bill in May 2003.
In February 2003, Senators Martin Mejstřík, Josef Zoser, Václava Domšová, Václav Roubíček, Jaroslav Šula and Jan Hadrava submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 218/1999 Coll., on the Scope of the Armed Forces Responsibility and Military Administrative Authorities (the Armed Services Act), as amended by later regulations, and Act No. 220/1999 Coll., on the Course of the Basic or Substitute Service and Military Exercise and Several Legal Relations of Soldiers in Inactive Status, as amended by later regulations (Senate Document No. 34). The goal of the new legal regulation was to shorten the duration of the basic military service from the present 12 to 9 months. After its consideration, the Senate rejected this bill in November 2003.
In March 2003, the Senate Permanent Commission on the Constitution of the Czech Republic and Parliamentary Procedures submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 107/1999 Coll., on the Senate Rules of Procedure, as amended by Act. No. 78/2002 Coll. (Senate Document No. 76). The bill proposed to amend the rules of procedure in essentially four subject areas: 1) the situation of the Senators and Senators clubs, 2) regarding the experience to date in applying procedural and organisational provisions of the Rules of Procedure, 3) a new method of deliberations with regard to international treaties and finally 4) implementation of Article 10b of the Constitution regulating the bases for interaction between the Parliament and the Government with regard to questions concerning the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union. In June 2003, the draft bill was approved by the Senate and in early July it was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 387). In February 2004, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill with proposed amendments and in March referred the same to the Senate (Senate Document No. 310).
In April 2003, Senators Milan Štěch, Pavel Eybert, Zuzana Roithová, Petr Smutný, Jiří Brýdl and Václav Jehlička submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend Act No. 128/2000 Coll., on Municipalities (municipal system), as amended by later regulations (Senate Document No. 81). In accordance with this bill, municipalities that once had been declared as towns were again declared to be towns, because the municipality system of 1990 had denied such status subject to compliance with conditions stipulated by law. In June 2003, the Senate approved and submitted the bill to the Chamber of Deputies (Chamber of Deputies Document No. 377 ). The bill was debated by the Chamber of Deputies committees, but in the final vote it did not obtain the sufficient number of votes and was not approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
In December 2003, Senators Jan Hadrava, Petr Fejfar, Helena Rögnerová, Václava Domšová, Josef Zoser, Jiří Zlatuška, Soňa Paukrtová, Martin Mejstřík and Zdeněk Bárta submitted a draft Senate Constitutional Bill to amend Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, as amended (Senate Document No. 232). The bill requires cancellation of the entire existing paragraph of the Constitutional Article on exclusion of the Deputies and Senators from the general authority of public officials with regard to misdeeds, including the relevant legal provisions. The bill further proposes to limit the exclusion from criminal prosecution only to the period of the Deputy’s or Senator’s electoral mandate. Change of the immunity treatment from lifelong immunity to an immunity limited to the time of the mandate ought not affect any rights obtained earlier for not being prosecuted. The Bill was considered by the Committees, and the Senate suspended consideration of the Bill until 30 June 2004.
In addition to the amendment to the Constitution the same Senators submitted a draft Senate Bill to amend some acts in connection with adoption of Constitutional Act No.?.., to amend Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll., the Constitution of the Czech Republic, as amended (Senate Document No. 233). In connection with adoption of the Constitutional Act amending the accountability of Deputies and Senators for misdeeds, it is necessary to reflect these changes on the sub-constitutional level as well, i.e. in the Misdeeds Act and Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The bill was considered by the committees, and the Senate suspended consideration of the bill until 30 June 2004.
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 of the Constitution of the Czech Republic was at the same time amended, and it now reads: “For the ratification of international agreements”
- governing rights and duties of persons,
- of alliance, peace, or other political treaties,
- which result in the membership of the Czech Republic in an international organisation,
- that are economic of a general nature,
- 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.
The Government of the Czech Republic, by its Resolution No. 658 of 30 June 2003, adopted on the method of submitting international treaties to the Parliament of the Czech Republic to give approval for their ratification, approved the fact that the international treaties considered by the Government are, upon their signature, submitted for approval of their ratification to both Chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. Beginning on this date both Chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic consider international treaties in parallel. In its consideration the Senate follows the More Detailed Rules of Procedure of the Senate and its Bodies When Considering International Treaties (Senate Document No. 343). The manner of considering international treaties is newly modified in the Senate’s Amended Rules of Procedure.
ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The Parliament votes for the President of the Republic in a joint meeting of the two Chambers. President of the Republic Václav Havel’s term of office expired on 2 February 2003.
The first joint meeting of the two Chambers was held on 15 January 2003. The candidates were: Václav Klaus, Petr Pithart, Miroslav Kříženecký and Jaroslav Bureš. None of the candidates was elected.
The second joint meeting was held on 24 January 2003 and the candidates were: Václav Klaus, Miloš Zeman and Jaroslava Moserová. None of the candidates obtained the necessary number of votes.
The third joint meeting of the two Chambers was held on 28 February 2003 and the candidates were Václav Klaus and Jan Sokol. Václav Klaus was elected the President of the Republic; he took the vows of the President of the Republic in the fourth joint meeting of the two Chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic on 7 March 2003.
JUDGES OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
In accordance with Article 84 of the Constitution of the Czech Republic, the President of the Republic appoints the Judges of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic with the consent of the Senate. In 2003, the Senate considered 13 requests from the President of the Republic for appointing Judges to the Constitutional Court.
In January 2003, the Senate considered the request from Václav Havel, the President of the Republic, for approval of the nomination of JUDr. Jiří Mucha to the office of the Judge of the Constitutional Court and gave its approval to his appointment (Senate Document No. 17).
Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, submitted the following 12 requests to the Senate:
In May 2003 JUDr. Miloslav Výborný was considered. The Senate gave its approval to his appointment (Senate Document No. 95).
In its eighth meeting in July the Senate considered 4 requests contained in (Senate Documents No. 100 and 102). The Senate gave its approval to the appointments of JUDr. Vojen Güttler, JUDr. Pavel Holländer and JUDr. Pavel Rychetský. It rejected the nomination of JUDr. Aleš Pejchal.
In its following meeting in August 2003 the Senate considered 4 more requests to approve nominations as Judges of the Constitutional Court: of JUDr. Vladimír Balaš, JUDr. Václav Pavlíček, JUDr. Klára Veselá Samková and JUDr. Dagmar Lastovecká (Senate Documents No. 119 , 121 , 123 , 141). In the case of the first three nominations the Senate did not give its approval, the last appointment was approved.
At the tenth Senate meeting in September 2003 the Senate considered the repeatedly submitted request of the President of the Republic for approval from the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for the nomination of JUDr. Aleš Pejchal to the office of judge. The Senate did no approve his nomination.
Also in the two following meetings the Senate considered the nominations of the Judges to the Constitutional Court: JUDr. Jan Musil (Senate Document No. 164), 11th meeting, November 2003 and JUDr. Jiří Nykodým (Senate Document No. 196) 12th meeting, December 2003. The Senate gave its approval to the appointments of both the proposed candidates.