Time for a green lightAccording to the current National Assembly Advancement Law, bills cannot be passed without an earlier agreement between ruling and opposition parties except for extraordinary cases. In other words, more than three-fifths of all the votes of registered lawmakers are needed to pass bills. To meet the requirements, a majority party must obtain more than 180 votes. Currently, the ruling Saenuri Party holds 156 seats. After some of its proposed bills were thwarted by the opposition, the ruling party wants to revise the law, calling it “a law aimed at paralyzing the National Assembly.” But the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy strongly opposes amending it, which it says would betray a bipartisan agreement led by the Saenuri Party two years ago to end railroading through of bills by the ruling party.
Saenuri Party floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan has announced a plan to revise the law, a so-called “green light law,” which, if passed, would push bills with green ribbons on them - supported by both sides of the political divide - through the legislature. But the New Politics Alliance for Democracy immediately opposed the idea, calling it an attempt to “return to the days of visceral fights between parties at the Assembly.”
The National Assembly Advancement Law contributed to the elimination of brawls between lawmakers by prohibiting the railroading of bills. Despite the time and effort needed to bridge the gap on contentious bills, the law is good because it requires compromise, which is the heart of democratic politics.
But the law had adverse side effects because the ruling or opposition party sometimes attempts to link the passage of one bill to another. For instance, a subcommittee for legal deliberations under the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee reached an agreement on amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. But the opposition is holding it hostage to a revision to the Law on Broadcasting. Because most of the subcommittees under 16 standing committees are comprised of equal numbers from the ruling and opposition parties, bills can’t get through the legislature if the opposition opposes them.
When it comes to bills which both sides support, we need to find ways to pass them on a fast track. The opposition will also need such a system if it ever takes power. We urge lawmakers from both sides to find ways to correct the flaws of the National Assembly Advancement Law.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 2, Page 30
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