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Parties geared for 'extraordinary' legislative battle

2012/07/23 22:40:32

Taipei, July 23 (CNA) The legislative caucuses of the ruling and opposition parties were getting ready Monday for an extraordinary four-day session of the Legislature slated to open Tuesday.

Majority Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers hope to pass a total of 38 amendments and other proposals, including a revision of Taiwan's food safety laws that would allow the import of American beef containing a banned veterinary drug and a bill to tax gains on securities transactions.

The parties failed to reach a consensus on the main issues in private consultations Monday, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pying said it would not be "that easy" for the KMT to pass all of its 38 legislative proposals during the four-day session.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was not ready to compromise with the KMT on the beef and tax bills and other measures unless the KMT, which holds 64 of the Legislature's 113 seats, agreed to pass some of the DPP's 15 proposals, including a bill governing local government revenue sources and a political party act.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which holds only three seats, insisted on its position of not allowing any residues of the banned drug ractopamine in imports of American beef.

It threatened to boycott the special Legislative Yuan session unless the multi-party consultations factored in its zero-tolerance proposal on the leanness-enhancing drug.

At the top of the KMT's priority list is its draft amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which currently bans the use of leanness-enhancing drugs in livestock.

The U.S. government, which allows ractopamine as a veterinary drug, has been angered by Taiwan's seizure of beef shipments containing ractopamine residues.

In early 2011, it delayed the resumption of talks with Taiwan under a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement because of the beef dispute.

The Cabinet has put forth a proposal to amend the law to allow in beef but not pork that contains an internationally accepted safe level of ractopamine, a position that opposition parties -- except for the TSU -- may find difficult to continue to resist.

Also high on the KMT's priority list is the capital gains tax plan that has already cost the Ma Ying-jeou administration a finance minister. Incumbent Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford hopes a version of the proposal will be passed to lay a foundation for the future reform of the tax system in the direction of justice and fairness.

Also urgent for the ruling party is its request that the Legislature approve the government's nominations of four new members to the National Communications Commission, the country's media and broadcasting regulator.

Legislator Lin Hung-chih, KMT legislative caucus whip, will call a meeting Tuesday to forge a consensus within the KMT caucus, during which the four NCC nominees will also appear to solicit support.

The DPP's legislative caucus will also meet the same day to discuss the party's overall strategy, said Ker Chien-ming, Lin's counterpart.

Lin said a majority of his party's 38 proposals need not go through multi-party consultations to clear the legislative floor, including an amendment to the Act of Gender Equality in Employment that would give parents paid leave on days of extreme weather to take care of school-aged children.

"If the opposition parties cannot pass such amendments, we will not rule out a vote showdown," Lin said.

In response, Ker said the DPP's proposal on the issue can be accommodated if the KMT is sincere in working with the opposition parties.

"It can be solved through ruling-opposition consultations and need not be put to a vote at all," Ker said.

The Legislature is scheduled to tackle the draft amendments to the food sanitation act and the capital gains tax plan on July 25, and vote to approve or disapprove the nominations of the NCC members the next day.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Wen Ku-hsiang, Ho Meng-kui, Tang Hsiao-tien,
Chen Shun-hsieh, Tsai Ho-ying and S.C. Chang)