Wednesday, the third day of the 2010 winter session and the 163rd session of the 18th Knesset overall, was less than seven hours. Eight bills were discussed, including a basic law. Two of the bills were defeated, two of them postponed and one was turned into a motion instead. Three bills did pass their preliminary readings. The bills that advanced will increase the sentence of students who attack teachers, force the government to take down cell phone antennae from hospitals and schools and, lastly, restrict government monopoly companies from creating new fees. Among the defeated bills were a bill that would limit top executives’ salaries and a bill that would grant students free national insurance.

 

Non-Bill Summary:

  • Urgent queries were answered by Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas), Labor and Welfare Minister Herzog (Labor) and Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch (Y.B.).
  • Homeland Security Minister Aharonovitch answered nine other queries later in the session.
  • Speaker Rivlin addressed the visiting President of Finland.
  • Eight motions were discussed over the course of the day, but four didn’t come up for a vote. The few MKs who were around at the end of the afternoon passed the other four by the votes of 7-3, 14-0, 7-3 and 11-1 with one abstaining.
  • House Chairman Levin (Likud) revealed the House Committee’s decisions on which committees will discuss the current preliminary bills in limbo.  Levin announced that MK Oron (Meretz) will replace MK Hermesh (Kadima) in the Finance Committee. Levin also announced that MK Pinyan (Likud) would replace MK Yacimovich (Labor) in a joint Finance-Justice Sub-Committee.

 

Today’s Bill Summary:

Amendment to the Knesset Bill

MK Levin (Likud) explained that his amendment would cancel the position of the Knesset Commissioner for future generations. MK Levin said he felt this appointed position hurt the Knesset immediately after elections and that the position has no purpose throughout the rest of the term.

MK Levin agreed to delay the vote on the bill for another week, in order to ensure government support.

Amendment to the Consumer Protection Bill

MK Shama (Likud) explained his amendment would prohibit government companies from collecting payments in addition to the rate prescribed by the laws of payment. MK Shama gave an example of government monopoly companies such as Bezeq charging a few extra shekels for customers that use the post office bank or don’t pay via the internet.

The government had no minister or deputy minister in the room to grant approval to the bill, but Speaker Rivlin chose to vote on the bill anyway. It is illegal for the government not to have a representative when the plenum is in session, and Rivlin chose to go ahead anyway. Perhaps the bill did not actually have government approval.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 33-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Penal Code Bill

MK Orlev (J.H.) explained that his amendment would sentence students who attack their teachers with between three to five years in prison. MK Orlev explained that a recent poll cited that 56% of the 120,000 Israeli teachers were attacked in the past school year. The Interior Ministry has only pursued 45 cases in the last year. MK Orlev asked that the Knesset send a message to the violent students and tell them that Israel stands behind her teachers.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

MK Zahalka (Balad) attacked Orlev and Sa’ar. Zahalka said that increasing punishments has never changed anything and that Sa’ar must work on changing his ministry’s policy. He also accused Orlev of trying to pull a populist quick-fix bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 61-1 and was sent to the House Committee to decide which committee will prepare the bill for a first reading. Speaker Rivlin had wanted to send the bill to the Justice Committee, and Orlev preferred to send it to the Education Committee, of which he is the chairman.

Amendment to the Non-Ionizing Radiation Bill

MK Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima) explained that her amendment, which has many co-sponsors, would prohibit the placing of a transmission cellular communication system on top of any government educational or health facility. She stated that in today’s age the cell phone has become not only a telephone, but also an alarm clock, schedule book, GPS, address book, camera, email, music player, news ticker, traffic report and countless notes and lists. Therefore the cell phone companies need more antennae, and the government has decided to place them on hospitals and schools in order to receive money. The bill would demand that all of these antennae be removed immediately.

Public Relations and Diaspora Affairs Minister Edelstein (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

MK Eldad (N.U.) objected to the law. He argued that there is no concrete evidence that links antennae to cancer. Eldad added that, as a doctor and during his time as the former health commander of the army, he never witnessed any cancer as a result of cell phone antennae. He also argued that the government would lose money and that people would lose reception in public places.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 53-1 and was sent to the Interior and Health Committee.

Motion/Amendment on the National Insurance Bill

MK Barakeh (Chadash) explained that his amendment would exempt all college students from paying national insurance contributions (Bituach Leumi). He added that this bill would help Israel move towards a socialist democracy that encourages higher education. He spent the rest of his allotted time talking about another one of his bills, one which would have the tax payers pick up the tab for school children who can’t go on class trips because their parents can’t afford it.

Labor and Welfare Minister Herzog (Labor) expressed government opposition to the bill. He pointed out that MK Barakeh’s bill would give students five free years of Bituach Leumi, regardless of how much money they earn during that time. The bill also excludes masters’ students, so it would discourage them from staying in school. The minister pointed out that Bituach Leumi is 18 NIS per month for the 50,000 first degree students, and there is no real reason to abolish it. The 10,000 Israeli foreign exchange students residing abroad pay 54 NIS per month for their Bituach Leumi. He added that this would give university students an unfair advantage over soldiers and yeshiva students who do not receive these benefits for free.

MK Barakeh agreed to turn the bill into a motion when he realized his bill wouldn’t pass.

The motion passed 58-1 and was sent to the Education Committee for further discussion.

Amendments to the Sick Pay Bill

MK Oron (Meretz) explained his two amendments would allow a person to take a day off from work in order to take a disabled person to their medical examination. He explained that the bill would help children be with their parents in the last months of terminal diseases.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked (Labor) expressed government opposition to the bill arguing that top industry leaders are afraid through this bill employees will use up all of their sick days.

The amendments were defeated by a single vote of 19-41

Amendment on Companies Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would restrict the salaries of executives in government companies and public companies to 100 times the salary of the lowest paid worker. He attacked the fact that currently many of these executives make millions of shekels monthly. He estimated that his bill would put a cap of about 80,000 shekels per month for the top executives. MK Sheetrit attacked executives who are paying their employees 3,500 shekels per month and take home two million. He quoted a Harvard study that found that top executives in Israel are paid second highest in the world, next to the United States.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government opposition the bill. He attacked it for singling out government and public companies. Neeman also challenged the idea that if the executives made less money that they would distribute it to their employees. He blasted the idea that there is a single solution to closing the gaps within Israeli society and slammed the bill, which has not passed in any democratic country around the globe. He added there is a ministerial committee that is discussing how to close the gaps in the Israeli economy, and therefore this bill is irrelevant.

MK Sheetrit got back up to argue his point and got into a brief exchange with Prime Minister Netanyahu and a few other ministers who were present. He called for a roll-call voting.

The bill was defeated 26-45.

Basic Bill – Character of the State

MK Edery (Kadima) explained that his Basic Bill, that would be added to the Israeli constitution when created, would define the declaration of independence as the character and personality of the State of Israel.

MK Edery agreed to postpone voting on the bill in order to take the time to garner government support.

 

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