Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) says he hopes the government's supplementary budget necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic will reach parliament as early as this week, getting its first reading on Thursday. Isamaa MP and finance committee chair Aivar Kokk had previously said next week was the likely timeframe for it to arrive at the parliament.
Põlluaas' claim that the Reform Party is opposed to an extraordinary sitting on the bill was rejected by party chair Kaja Kallas.
"The government is expected to adopt the supplementary budget on April 1 (Wednesday), and in that case, the next day, Thursday, they could hand it over for an additional session at the Riigikogu," Põluaas told the ERR.
"I very much hope that we can have the first reading of the bill on the same day, where the minister comes to present it and talk about it further, and answer questions," he added.
Põlluaas said that the regular bill procedure of submitting the bill, with the corresponding Riigikogu committee then proposing when it have its first reading, should be dispensed with given the urgency of the matter.
"In such a difficult situation, I think these things can be combined - in principle, the draft adopted can be sent on the same day to the [Riigikogu] committee, which could put it on the agenda for the same day," Põlluaas said. "And then the Riigikogu can approve this Thursday's agenda and we could kill two birds with one stone," he added.
The speaker added that since the Riigikogu's Rules of Procedure do not allow telecommuting or electronic forms of work, it must physically convene for Parliament to have a quorum.
"For a further session, a majority of the members of the Riigikogu, or 51 (out of 101-ed.), must be present," he said.
However, Põlluaas said the Reform Party faction, the largest in the house with 34 seats, is currently opposed to this approach.
If we can't do our first reading on Thursday, it will have to be on Monday, April 6," Põluaas added.
Kallas: We don't oppose extraordinary Riigikogu stting
Reform chair Kaja Kallas rejected Põlluaas' claim that the Reform Party did not want an additional sitting of the Riigikogu.
An additional session could take place on Tuesday, and then the government could pass the supplementary budget to the Riigikogu, while the first reading could be done on Thursday (i.e. the same day Põlluaas proposed-ed.). The two days in between would give MPs time to read the bill's contents, she said.
"The Riigikogu is not just a rubber stamp, we need to be able to read this bill in any case. There must be a reasonable amount of time between [to do this."
"We are ready to accept this supplementary budget, we are ready to come out in support of it," Kallas added.
A government briefing at Tuesday's session, where MPs could quiz members of the government about the supplementary budget in the current situation, could also be held, Kallas said.
In standard practice, bills receive at least two readings at the Riigikogu; if they pass these, the bill goes to President Kersti Kaljulaid for assent.
Government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, but appear there regularly to answer questions from the floor.
Aivar Kokk (ISamaa) , Riigikogu finance committee chair, told ERR last week that he expected that the government's economic crisis package in the form of a supplementary budget could be approved as soon as the first full week in April (i.e. next week-ed.).
"We agreed that the supplementary budget will be submitted to the Riigikogu by April 1 at the latest, and we will then try to process the bill in the week before April 6, to codify it as law," Kokk said last Wednesday, after a finance committee meeting.
According to him, the first reading could take place on Apri 6, the second reading on April 8 and the third on April 9, he said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte