Last Wednesday’s session lasted about eight hours and forty five minutes. An additional seven bills were split off from the Arrangements Bill. Ten bills were discussed. Five bills passed their preliminary reading and were advanced, two were defeated, two were turned into motions in order to avoid defeat and one was pulled before being voted on for the same reason. The highlight bill of the day was one that will prohibit communications companies from charging cancellation fees to their customers- that bill advanced. Another bill that advanced was the Female Representation on Inquiry Committees and Government Review Commissions Bill, a bill that found MK Zeev as the sole objector.

 

Non-Bills Summary

  • Speaker Rivlin announced at the opening of the session that Deputy Speaker Shama (Likud) submitted his resignation as Deputy Speaker and that it was accepted.
  • Splitting Bills off from Arrangements Bill: Funds Committee Chairman Gafni (U.T.J.) asked the Knesset to split four bills from the Arrangements Bill. He explained that the first concerns raising taxes, the second would give a municipal tax exemption to property burned in the Carmel fire, the third involves agriculture rules and the fourth addresses how citizens should be reporting their taxes. The four bills were split off by votes of 24-0, 26-0, 26-0 and 26-0. MK Dicter (Kadima) asked the Knesset to split a bill from the Arrangements Bill in the name of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee. He explained that the bill would allow the army to force Bezeq to put up any new phone lines needed in a time of war. The bill was split off by a 14-0 vote. Finance Committee Chairman Shama (Likud) asked the Knesset to split two bills from the Arrangements Bill. He explained the first bill would designate certain areas to search for oil and the second would institute several changes to the rules of television broadcasts. The two bills were split off by votes of 13-0 and 13-0.
  • Speaker Rivlin greeted the Macedonian Speaker of the House and his entourage with a warm speech.
  • Transportation Minister Katz (Likud), Environment Minister Erdan (Likud), Deputy Finance Minister Cohen (Shas) and Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) answered urgent queries.
  • House Committee Chairman MK Levin (Likud) announced that his committee has nominated MK Akunis (Likud) to replace MK Shama (Likud) as Deputy Speaker following Shama’s resignation. The Knesset approved the nomination 15-0.
  • House Committee Chairman MK Levin announced a shuffle in the Funds Committee. MK Oron (Meretz) and MK Hermesh (Kadima) will be members of the committee and MK Tirosh (Kadima) will now be a substitute.
  • House Committee Chairman MK Levin announced the committee’s decisions on which disputed bills and motions should be discussed in which committees. The decisions were approved 21-0.
  • Nine motions were discussed on the hot topics of the day. Seven were passed and sent to their relevant committees for further discussion by votes of 11-0, 6-0, 4-0, 6-0, 7-0, 5-0, and 6-0. Two motions were defeated by the narrow margins of 6-8 and 2-4.
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon (Y.B.) and Religious Affairs Minister Margi (Shas) answered queries at the end of the session.

 

Bills Summary

Olympic Preparations Bill

MK Miller (Y.B.) explained that his amendment would require the State to put aside 20 million NIS annually for the preparations required for assembling the Israeli Olympic team.

Culture Minister Livnat (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 22-0 and was sent to the Culture and Sport Committee.

Amendment to the Companies Bill

MK Amnon Cohen explained that his amendment would require private investment houses to fulfill the same duties that public investment houses are required to follow. He gave the example of disclosing annual financial statements as one of those duties.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 35-0 and was sent to the Funds Committee.

Female Representation on Inquiry Committees and Government Review Commissions Bill

MK Itzik (Kadima) explained that her amendment would require female representation on all government inquiry committees and government review commissions. She blasted past governments and the current government for not assigning women to these committees. She noted that only two females have served in such committees since the founding of the State.

Justice Minister Neeman expressed government support for the bill. He clarified that the amendment would require a third of every committee to be female as long as they meet the requirements to be a committee member.

Galil and Negev Minister Shalom (Likud) expressed his personal support for the bill. He asked that some of the females on the committees should be from the Negev and the Galil and not be the wives of the male committee members.

MK Zeev (Shas) objected to the bill. He said that this will not bring equality to women, but will send them further from their husbands. He asked why committees need to spend months finding the few qualified women, when they could be investigating. He said that women have equal rights when they stand beside their husbands. He warned this bill hurts the standing of women. He questioned a committee’s ability to make decisions when one-third of its members are women.

MK Itzik said that she knows Zeev’s wife personally and that she expects that he will be punished when he gets home tonight.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 56-0 (MK Zeev didn’t vote) and was sent to the House Committee to determine if the Women’s Rights Committee or the Justice Committee would discuss the bill further.

Motion/Amendment to the Copyright Bill

MK Sheetrit (Kadima) explained that his amendment would permit parents to download their children’s textbooks and workbooks from government websites. He expressed hope that this would help parents save thousands of shekels annually. He questioned why a country in which over 70% of households have internet access should force parents to spend money unnecessarily.

Education Minister Sa’ar (Likud) said that he agreed with the bill in principle, but that the bill calls for a complete widespread change that the education ministry is not ready for. He suggested Sheetrit turn the bill into a motion that will be discussed in the Science and Technology Committee which Sheetrit chairs.

MK Sheetrit agreed.

The motion passed 37-0.

Amendment to the Communications Bill

MK Shamalov-Berkovich (Kadima) explained that her amendment would prohibit land line, broadcast and communications companies from charging their customers cancellation fines. She said that the current situation prevents free market and competition. She asked why a customer who is not pleased with the service of his television, internet or cell phone company should be forced to pay for termination of the service.

Speaker Rivlin thanked Shamalov-Berkovich for founding the Russian Channel 9 without asking for any government funds.

MK Akunis (Likud) called it a capitalistic and moral bill. He said his office received several complaints about cancellation fees that surpassed 5,000 NIS. He called the prohibition of cancellation fees a revolution that will liberate the Israeli customer from his virtual jail cell.

Communications Minister Kahlon (Likud) expressed government support for the bill and thanked co-sponsors Shamalov-Berkovich and Akunis for pushing this bill for the last six months. Kahlon said that a fine is given to a criminal and not to a consumer.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 43-0 and was sent to the Finance Committee.

Amendment to the Traffic Ordinance Bill

MK Bielski (Kadima) explained that his amendment would require a minimum sentence for abandoning a person injured in an accident and a prohibition from accepting a plea bargain from the defendant for such an offense. He thanked the government for coming to their senses and supporting the bill. He noted that 243 hit and run crimes were committed in 2010. He thanked a long list of politicians and assistants who helped him with the bill. He also apologized for hurting the transportation minister’s feelings.

Transportation Minister Katz (Likud) expressed government support for the bill.

The bill passed its preliminary reading 45-0 and was sent to the Justice Committee.

Non-Formal Education for Children and Youth Bill

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) explained that his amendment would budget for more youth groups, community centers and other after-school non-formal education centers. He revealed that his professional background is in this field. He quoted studies that found cities with more non-formal educational programs have less crime. He warned that many of these programs are in danger of closing. He hoped to set a standard for the future. He was told that the government was against the bill because the government planned to present their own version of the bill. He said that he has been waiting for a year already, and he is willing to give the credit to the government if they want it. He said that the bill is more important than the credit. He agreed for now to withdraw the bill but warned that if in five months he doesn’t see a government version of the bill, he will bring up the bill again in order to embarrass them.

Amendment to the Rental and Borrowing Bill

MK Molla (Kadima) explained that his amendment would set a limit on raising rents. He blasted the government for allowing the real estate market to skyrocket. He said that rental prices are leading young couples into bankruptcy. He called for a ceiling on rent prices and for regulation on the rental real estate property market. He remarked that people are leaving the country in order to find cheaper rental prices. He asked how we could be members of the OECD if people can’t afford rent.

Minister Begin (Likud) expressed government opposition to the bill. He noted that Kadima MK Tiviaev and former Kadima MK Nudelman both submitted identical bills, and they were both defeated. Begin said there is no reason for the government to regulate the renting market of real estate properties. He said that every owner is allowed to charge what they want, and if the renter does not want to pay that price he is free to live somewhere else. Begin reminded Molla that we live in a free country, and people can more or less do what they want unless they are hurting someone or the country.

MK Molla responded that when the public is hurting, it is the legislators’ job to come in and do something about it. He attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was in the room, for hurting young couples’ chances to live in a normally priced apartment.

The bill was defeated 24-36.

Client Liability for Contractor Services and Workers’ Rights Bill/Motion

MK Khenin (Hadash) said this was among his most important bills. He warned that 20% of workers are employed through contractor services and therefore their employers are not legally responsible for their rights. He said that for the employers this situation is comfortable and presents incentives to use contactor services, but it is a nightmare for the workers who are not given the rights they deserve. He said it was an illegitimate attempt to avoid giving workers the conditions needed to work.

Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Noked (Labor) expressed government opposition to the bill. She called the bill too widespread and mentioned there is a similar government bill that will deal with specific issues and not eliminate contractor services altogether. She asked Khenin to turn the bill into a motion.

MK Khenin called the government bill unbalanced and limiting. He warned that the government bill will not provide an answer to all the people who are being used every day. Khenin agreed to turn the bill into a motion.

The motion passed 23-0 and was sent to the Labor Committee.

Amendment to the National Health Insurance Bill

MK Oron (Meretz) explained that his amendment would allow insurance holders the ability to select where to receive services. He explained that sometimes people are sent to further clinics instead of ones that are closer to them for certain treatments and doctor appointments and are not able to decide for themselves where to go. He stated that Israel has a great national health insurance system, and this bill will correct one of the few problems that remain.

Deputy Health Minister Litzman (U.T.J.) said he personally supports the bill but the government opposes the bill and he will respect the coalition. He explained the government is afraid that the clinics will not be able to handle it if insurance holders had that much control.

MK Oron asked that in the future the government send someone to object to his bill that actually opposes it.

The bill was defeated 11-30.

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