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A quick take on why 'legislative reform bills' are hotly debated

05/18/2024 10:40 PM
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Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024
Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) Taiwan's Legislative Yuan began voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body.

They would require the president to give a state of the nation address at the Legislature, strengthen the Legislature's investigative rights, and cover how "contempt of the Legislature" would be defined and penalized.

As of Saturday, bills related to the president's address at the Legislature had passed a second reading.

Here are some of the issues that have sparked debate:

Procedural issues

The bills were not reviewed line by line in the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee. Instead all versions proposed by different groups of opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers and the Taiwan's People Party (TPP) caucus were sent directly to the legislative floor while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) bills were blocked by the opposition in committee.

Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024
Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024
Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024
Legislators get physical on Friday when voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body. CNA photo May 17, 2024

The KMT and the TPP jointly proposed a new version of the bills on Friday, but presented it as a series of "revisions" that were not accessible on the Legislative Yuan's website. The DPP argued that this lacked transparency.

President's address

The president would be required to make an annual address before March 1 at the Legislature's invitation and respond to lawmakers' questions on the spot. Previously the address had been optional, and no Republic of China president had ever given one at the Legislative Yuan.

DPP legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) previously called a question-and-answer session with the president "unconstitutional," saying it should be up to the president to decide whether he or she wants to respond.

Investigative rights

The KMT has proposed granting the Legislature "investigative rights" beyond its current right to access official documents, including convening investigation committees and hearings that can summon people to testify and provide information. The scope of the summons would include private entities.

DPP legislators on Saturday condemn Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu's management of the Legislature during the voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body on Friday. CNA photo May 18, 2024
DPP legislators on Saturday condemn Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu's management of the Legislature during the voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body on Friday. CNA photo May 18, 2024
KMT legislators on Saturday speak against the actions of DPP legislators during the voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body on Friday. CNA photo May 18, 2024
KMT legislators on Saturday speak against the actions of DPP legislators during the voting on controversial bills aimed at reforming the legislative body on Friday. CNA photo May 18, 2024

Those who refuse a demand by the Legislature or delay in responding, conceal information, or provide false statements to the Legislature during an investigation, inquiry, or hearing or when it reviews documents can be fined or, if serious, seen as "contempt of the legislature," according to the KMT lawmakers' bill.

On the other hand, the DPP caucus proposed in its related bills that the investigatory committee should only be convened if the matter in question is related to the rights conferred by the Constitution to the Legislative Yuan and should not violate the authority of other independent agencies.

Contempt of the Legislature

To support the right of the Legislature to launch investigations, amendments have been proposed to the Criminal Code to criminalize "contempt of the legislature" during an investigation.

Several lawyers voiced concerns during public hearings in April over the proposed criminalization and who would define contempt, citing possible violations to basic rights and freedom.

DPP Legislator Puma Shen (沈伯洋) has said that before expanding the power of lawmakers, regulations defining limits should be established to avoid having the Legislature become a place for "self-serving retribution" that bypasses legal institutions.

(By Alison Hsiao)

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