Speaker to outline bill to revise Assembly Act

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Speaker to outline bill to revise Assembly Act

The speaker of the National Assembly has said that he will propose a revision to the current law governing the operation of the legislature in order to end months of a political standstill.

Speaker Rep. Chung Ui-hwa appealed to both the ruling and opposition parties on Thursday to normalize operations in the National Assembly.

“Because the legislature failed to function properly, economic bills were stalled, and the country was left without a valid electoral map,” he said during a press conference. “As the speaker of the National Assembly, I offer a sincere apology to the people.”

Chung added that he had tried to resolve the deadlock for months but could not find a resolution. While rejecting the ruling Saenuri Party’s demand that he use his power as speaker to arrange a vote, Chung said he will end the deadlock by revising the National Assembly Act to restore majority rule in the legislature.

Criticizing a 2012 amendment of the law for having effectively paralyzed the Assembly, he emphasized that the current version of the law must be revised at all costs.

He will present a bill to revise the National Assembly Act in order to resolve any flaws, he added, a compromise that must be acceptable for both the ruling and opposition parties.

Currently, a stalled bill can be designated as a “fast-track” item and put up for a vote when three-fifths of lawmakers, or 180, consent to it. Chung said it infringed upon the basic principle of a parliamentary democracy - majority rule - and that the 60-percent requirement should be changed to a majority of sitting lawmakers.

Following a series of embarrassing melees in the legislature, the ruling and opposition parties in 2012 amended the National Assembly Act, which engineers the need for compromise into the parliamentary process.

In addition to the 60-percent rule, the revision also limited the majority party’s ability to railroad bills through parliament and significantly reduces cases in which the Assembly speaker can use his power to introduce a bill for a vote without first going through the parliamentary committees.

While the revised act has significantly reduced violence in the legislature over the past four years, bills sponsored by the government and the ruling party, which commands 156 seats in the 300-seat legislature, have often been blocked by the opposition.

Chung said he will present the bipartisan revision plan and begin discussions as soon as possible.

The ruling and opposition parties, he said, must also work to resolve the impasse around a series of pending economic bills and figure out how to redraw the electoral map for the April general election before the Lunar New Year holidays in February.

“I will act more aggressively,” Chung said. “On those two issues, I will present compromises and mediate for both sides.”

The ruling and opposition parties responded positively to Chung’s appeals, particularly concerning the proposed change to the National Assembly Act.

On Thursday, the main opposition Minjoo Party also said that it would accept one of the most contentious economic bills.

Known as the “One-Shot Act,” the bill intends to establish a special law designed to reduce legal procedures required by existing laws and provide tax cuts in cases in which businesses are voluntarily sold off or purchased. It also covers mergers and acquisitions for companies and industry sectors in crisis due to oversupply.

“We won’t limit the scope of the law’s application,” said Rep. Lee Mok-hee, the Minjoo Party’s chief policymaker. “If problems are revealed during implementation, we will revise the law.”

Until now, the Minjoo Party had argued that the law enabled corporations to create legal detours for illegal wealth transfers.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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