Monday’s session lasted about five hours. Nine bills were discussed. Four bills passed their third readings, and five bills passed their first readings. The four new laws include changing the position name of welfare officers to social workers, lowering the allowed alcohol level for drivers age 24 and younger, increased security for mayors and their deputies and forcing communication companies to send a free message if a text message, voice message or picture were not received. Among the bills that passed their first reading are a bill that would charge a 10 NIS fine for missed doctor appointments and a bill that would increase the Israeli work week from 40 hours to 45 hours. Overall, it was one of the most interesting sessions of the winter so far.

Non-Bills Summary

  • Kadima’s no-confidence motion titled “Netanyahu government’s failure to meet the housing crisis and being dismissive of the public’s intelligence” was defeated 27-52 (41 MKs were not present).
  • The three Israeli-Arab parties’ no-confidence motion titled “Tenders to build 1300 housing units in East Jerusalem in general and Har Homa in particular” was defeated 8-51, with 17 MKs abstaining and 44 MKs not present.
  • House Committee Chairman Levin (Likud) asked the Knesset to approve sending a certain bill to a different committee. The decision was accepted by a 14-0 vote.
  • The Government’s announcement on the transfer of certain powers from Finance Minister Steinitz (Likud) to Justice Minister Neeman and other powers to Minister Begin (Likud) due to conflicts of interest were brought by Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas). Speaker Rivlin said that he didn’t understand why there was a conflict of interest. MK Rotem (Y.B.) explained that there was no conflict of interest in either of the cases and that the votes were both unnecessary and extreme.  They were approved by the votes of 26-0 and 25-0 with MK Rotem abstaining.
  • The Funds Committee’s decision regarding the approval of provision orders was challenged by MK Ariel (N.U.) and brought to the plenum for a vote. Ariel blasted the government for raising taxes every chance they had. MK Gafni (U.T.J.) explained that by raising the taxes the government will collect an additional 200 million NIS. The provision orders were passed by the votes of 24-4-1 and 24-3-1.
  • The Funds Committee proposed to split off part of the Arrangements Bill in regard to a part of the economic policy for the years 2011 and 2012. MK Gafni explained that he wanted to place restrictions on student tax exemptions to avoid loopholes where students will receive money for not working. He blasted Kadima for not showing up to the committee meetings. He noted that his party and the others care about the college students and that Kadima just pretends. MK Miller (Y.B.) explained that the point of the law was to help students that work and that the loopholes must be corrected. MK Ben Ari (N.U.) said that taxing college students who work is the problem and not the solution. The proposal passed 22-0.
  • MK Gafni asked to split off bills from the Arrangements Bill that have a consensus between the opposition and the collation. The proposal passed 19-1.

Bills Summary

Amendment to the Replacing the Term “Welfare Officer” Bill

MK Levy-Abekasis (Y.B.) explained that the amendment would change the term “welfare officer” to “social worker”.

The bill passed its second reading 47-0.

The bill passed its third reading 53-0.

Amendment to the Communications Bill

Finance Committee Chairman MK Akunis (Likud) explained that the amendment would force all cellular companies and other communication companies to send a message to the consumer if a text message, voice message or picture were not received. The bill also forbids any communication company from charging a consumer for a failed text message, voice message or picture that was not received.

The bill passed its second reading 52-0.

The bill passed its third reading 51-0.

MK Aflalo (Kadima) thanked the Knesset for approving his bill. He said that this law would improve consumer service and Israelis would no longer need to wonder if the other person got their message.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) explained that the amendment would place a 10 NIS fine on any patient that misses their appointment. He noted that if the patient cancels the appointment they won’t be fined. He expressed hope that this bill would encourage patients to cancel their appointments if they are no longer needed, which would allow the really sick patients access to the care they deserve.

MK Adatto (Kadima) thanked the government for taking this bill out of the Arrangements Bill and slammed the government for the terrible bill. She expressed that as a former hospital director she knows that instead of solving the problem this bill will create a new one. She suggested forcing the clinics to call the day before to see if the patients were coming in. She wondered why a patient who was too sick to make it to their appointment should receive the fine as well.

MK Ariel blasted the government for placing another fine on the sick people of the country. He stated that this won’t even bring in money to the country because the state now has to hire people to manage the appeal system proposed in the bill.

MK Ben Ari told a story about a woman who had an appointment for a special test in the hospital for her sick baby. He explained she had to wait three months for the appointment, and the week of the scheduled appointment they pushed it off another month. The day of the appointment the traffic was bad, and it took her time to find parking. She made it to the hospital office ten minutes late, and they wouldn’t let her in. She offered to wait for hours and stay until the end of the day, but the doctor refused and sent her home. He asked the government to look themselves in the mirror if they want to know why there are problems with the appointments.

MK Khenin (Hadash) said that that the motivation for the bill is not justified. He warned that people might not seek medical attention because they are afraid they might be fined if they can’t make it. He added that in the long run the bill will cost more money than it is brings in and cause people to think twice before they make an appointment.

MK Molla (Kadima) attacked Deputy Minister Cohen personally and told him that he directly was hurting the poorest sectors of society. Cohen fired back, and Deputy Speaker Vaknin (Shas) sent Molla back to his seat.

MK Zeev (Shas) told everyone to calm down and reminded everyone that the fine is only 10 NIS. He suggested raising the health coverage by 10 NIS per month instead of fining for each missed appointment.

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) said that this was one of the dumbest bills he has ever seen. He said that the lines for appointments are so long, and this will put more pressure on the doctors to see their patients for less time. He asked why we want to give the kupat cholim directors more money. Sheetrit called the bill an embarrassment and suggested that the coalition members walk out of the room for the voting to save their dignity.

MK Rotem (Y.B.) asked if the patients waiting will receive 10 NIS when a doctor shows up late. He joked that the clinics’ phone lines are always busy, so it is impossible to cancel an appointment.

MK Oron (Meretz) noted that over the last year health care coverage rates have increased 10%, specifically for medication, and now it would seem appointments are next.

Deputy Finance Minister Cohen charged that the MKs didn’t read the bill. He said this was not a tax, but a fine. He explained that no one wants the money and that it probably won’t be enforced. He stated that all this bill is asking for is that people cancel their appointments if they aren’t going to be there in order to make room for others.

The bill passed its first reading 23-16 and was sent to the Health Committee.

Amendment to the Work and Rest Hours Bill

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked (Labor) explained that the amendment would increase the maximum work day without overtime to ten hours and the maximum work week without overtime to 45 hours. She added that the kibbutzim would not be included in this bill.

MK Khenin called this bill a violation of human rights. He suggested leaving the bill the way it was. He attacked the government for transferring the responsibilities of this bill to the Industry and Trade ministry from the Labor and Welfare ministry, citing a conflict of interest.

MK Molla slammed the government for increasing the standard work week by five hours and for increasing certain work days by two hours without raising the salary.

MK Zeev reminded Molla that in Israel there used to be a six-day 48-hour work week until former Prime Minister Begin started to lower that number in the 1980s. He suggested looking at the first increase of the Israeli work week in proportion.

MK Ben Ari stated that Israel has become a society of overtime and living to work instead of working to live. He slammed materialism and told people to spend time with their families.

The bill passed its first reading 31-11 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the Maintenance and Cleanliness Bill

Environment Minister Erdan (Likud) explained that every year a million and a half tons of construction waste is not properly disposed of. He explained that violators of this bill would receive between one to three years in prison. He said that repeat offenders will have their construction vehicles impounded and their licenses revoked.

MK Zeev suggested raising the fine for such offences and said that a prison sentence was excessive.

The bill passed its first reading 34-0 and was sent to the Interior Committee.

Amendment to the Antitrust Bill

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked explained that the amendment would prohibit
“concentration groups” from buying up real estate projects early and selling them for higher rates later. She called these groups a monopoly that must be stopped.

MK Cohen (Shas) explained that his bill was first proposed in 2003 and remarked that it has been a long struggle to get this bill passed.

The bill passed its first reading 24-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee

Amendment to the Knesset Bill

MK Levin explained his amendment would remove the position of Knesset Commissioner for Future Generations. He explained that the first and only Knesset Commissioner served from 2001-2006 and since that time the position has remained vacant and therefore should be removed. He criticized the position of the Knesset Commissioner, a position meant for a former judge, who is an appointed official governing over the elected legislative parliament. He called it a danger to democracy. He suggested placing a former MK as a Judicial Commissioner over the Supreme Court instead.

MK Khenin agreed that there are threats to democracy but disagreed that the Knesset Commissioner was one. He warned that the Knesset views Israel’s short term future and that the Knesset Commissioner can see Israel’s long term future. He charged that this bill will weaken the Knesset and make it less democratic.

MK Orbach (J.H.) suggested that the name ‘Knesset Commissioner for Future Generations’ caused its downfall. He said the name was crazy and it makes the MKs feel like they are nothing. He asked who it was who came up with that name and blamed them for the closing of the position.

MK Oron mocked the government for claiming that a biannual budget is historic while claiming that the long term vision of the Knesset Commissioner is flawed. He suggested instead of killing the position that it be transferred to the M.M.M. (information and research center) of the Knesset.

MK Ben Ari claimed that each of the elected 120 MKs is ‘Knesset Commissioners for Future Generations’. He said it was ridiculous and insulting to the Knesset to have a Commissioner. He stated that people who are not sure if their bills are democratic have parliamentary assistants to consult with. He concluded that no one listened to the Knesset Commissioner anyway and that is why he resigned in 2006.

MK Horowitz (Meretz) said that he understood from Ben Ari’s speech that the Commissioner is part of a terrorist group called the Supreme Court. He asked how it was undemocratic to have a judge who has no veto power in a Knesset consulting job.

Speaker Rivlin gave a history lesson on the Knesset Commissioner for Future Generations.

MK Ghilon (Meretz) told Orbach that the Knesset doesn’t have a problem with the Knesset Commissioner for Future Generations, but rather with the future generations.

The bill passed its first reading 22-5 and was sent to the House Committee.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Amar (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would place a lower alcohol limit on drivers age 24 and under. He thanked his co-sponsor MK Ilatov (Y.B.) and Finance Committee Chairman MK Akunis for helping him with his bill. Deputy Speaker Whbee (Kadima) noted that Amar is the head of the Knesset lobby for traffic safety.

The bill passed its second reading 15-0.

The bill passed its third reading 15-0.

Amendment to the Municipalities Ordinance Bill

Interior Committee Chairman MK Azoulay (Shas) explained that his amendment would increase security for mayors and their deputies. He explained that the bill had been tied up in red tape for over two years. He said that he hoped this bill will help protect local officials.

The bill passed its second reading 11-0.

The bill passed its third reading 10-0.

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