Fast track bills need a final push

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Fast track bills need a final push

Leaders of the ruling and opposition parties and the head of the National Assembly on Friday held their first negotiation to discuss a timeline to vote on a series of sensitive bills to overhaul the criminal justice system and change the election law.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang hosted the meeting attended by leaders of four major political parties. Chairman Lee Hae-chan of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), and leaders of three opposition parties attended, but Hwang Kyo-ahn, head of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement.

The political leaders discussed ways to handle reform bills designated as fast-track items.

On April 30, four bills were designated as fast-track items after violent scuffles among lawmakers: a bill to create a new investigative agency for senior public servants, two bills to redistribute investigative powers between the police and the prosecution and an election law revision.

Once a bill is put on a fast-track, it is automatically sent to a voting session after it is considered by a relevant committee for up to 180 days and reviewed by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to change wordings for up to 90 days. Lawmakers must vote on the bill within 60 days.

The Special Committee on Political Reform approved the election law revision bill and sent it to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee on Aug. 29. The three prosecutorial reform bills, however, failed to obtain the Special Committee on Judicial Reform approval before the committee’s operation period ended on Aug. 31. They were automatically sent to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, which oversees the special committee, to complete review until the 180-day ends on Oct. 26.

For the election reform bill, the Legislation and Judiciary Committee has until Nov. 26 to finalize the wording. It will be automatically sent to a voting session after that deadline.

The DP and the LKP, however, have different ideas about how to proceed with the three stalled prosecutorial reform bills.

The DP said the bills’ 180-day review on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee will end on Oct. 26, and there is no need to spend another 90 days to check on its wordings since it is already in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. DP lawmakers, including floor leader Rep. Lee In-young, have said they want to vote on the bills before the end of this month.

The LKP, however, wants to spend the full 180 days on review and another 90 days to check the wording. In that case, the voting is possible in late January.

At the Friday meeting, the participating leaders agreed to discuss the timetable in the next meeting, with Hwang’s presence. The next meeting will take place after Speaker Moon returns from his overseas trip on Oct. 21.

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