Karilaid: Riigikogu can still pass family benefits amendments by New Year

Jaanus Karilaid.
Jaanus Karilaid. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Center Party chief whip at the Riigikogu Jaanus Karilaid says that if parliament adopts amendments to the family benefits law at a special sitting to be held next Wednesday, then thes will come into force in the New Year.

President Alar Karis declined to give his assent to the amendments Thursday, stating that they were unconstitutional.

Karilaid said: "The president's main complaint was that a legal provision was unclear. We are now putting our heads together and considering how to formulate it more precisely."

"The legislature must go over the provision which the president contested with a critical eye, and correct the wording of the law where it might be possible to convey the actual content and meaning of the provision better, and more clearly, for the normal addressee."

President Karis said Thursday that the Riigikogu must debate the bill once more, in order to bring it in line with the Constitution.

The Riigikogu is currently on Christmas recess, until January 9, but is in any case convening on December 28 on an extraordinary basis, at Center's behest, to process another benefits bill, in this case to extend sick pay from day two of a period of illness.

The amendment, to the Family Benefits Act and Family Law Act, would, if it pass, boost large family benefits (three or more children) from €300 to €650 per month for families with three to six children, and €400 to €850 per month for families with seven or more children.

At present, child benefit for first and second child currently stands at €60 a month, rising to €100 for the third child. Large family benefits current stand at €300, growing to €400 from the seventh child.

The bill passed its third reading on December 7 with a view to entering into force on January 1, 2023.

The president's office found the amendments hey violate rules of legislative drafting, making them unconstitutional.

More specifically, the second sentence of section 2, subsection 1, lacks legal clarity, the president's office says, which causes it to clash with section 13, subsection 2 of the Estonian Constitution, pertaining to the protection of the populace from the arbitrary exercise of state power.

Other considerations for not promulgating the law include installing indexation of the large families benefit, which would clearly separate it from child benefits and the single parent benefit, which are not indexed.

This raises the question of how to justify the decision to leave all families with fewer than three children unprotected from the risk of inflationary pressure, regardless of financial situation, in other words, puts in place an extra layer of inequality, the president's office argues.

After the head of state declined to sign into being the bill on Thursday, the Ministry of Social Affairs said that this means social benefits sums would remain unchanged in the new year.

Controversy over family benefits was at the heart of a rift between the Center Party and the Reform Party, while the two were in office, culminating in the prime minister dismissing Center's ministers from the coalition, in early June.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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