Riigikogu parties strike agreement on Family Benefits Act amendments

Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas.
Riigikogu speaker and Center Party leader Jüri Ratas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The political will is there to get a bill amending family benefits passed before the year is out, Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center) says.

The Riigikogu parties will be able to strike a compromise, after the bill, which siginficantly raises benefits to larger families (with three or more children) was on Thursday returned unsigned by President Alar Karis.

The Riigikogu board has convened an extraordinary session for next Wednesday, December 28, for the purpose.

Ratas told ERR Friday that: "We decided that the five parties will jointly propose to meet on December 28, to debate the law which was rejected by the president."

"Listening to the leaders or representatives of the parties, I get the feeling that the political will to accept it this year is present."

Ratas said consensus to make amendments which will get the bill passed can be reached and in a way which puts right those aspects which President Alar Karis had said impinge on the Constitution.

Isamaa's chief whip, Priit Sibul, concurred, saying the political parties reached an agreement that the problematic sentence referred to by the president will be struck off.

"The assumption is that support for families with children will be taken into account in the course of the withdrawal of alimony, only if that pertains for joint children (ie. the children of both parties to the alimony – ed.).

"This sentence will probably be taken out," Sibul added.

Reform's chief whip, Mart Võrklaev, said plans are in place to supplement the draft's explanatory memorandum, in order to answer the issue raised by the president whereby the different treatment of families of different sizes (ie. families with one or two children versus those with three or more) is not sufficiently justified, constitutionally speaking.

The new legislation will likely come into force in January after all, Ratas added, though the new benefit rates will likely follow in February, with January's payments reconciled retroactively, in the springtime.

Since Center had already proposed holding an extraordinary sitting on December 28 to process a bill which would prolong sick pay benefits from day two of a period of illness, this day will also be used to address the family benefits amendments, Ratas added, across five sittings.

The Riigikogu broke up for Christmas last week, hence the need for convening a sitting on an extraordinary basis.

The amendment, to the Family Benefits Act would 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.

While the bill passed its third reading on December 7, President Alar Karis found the amendments unconstitutional, on the basis of the arbitrary exercise of state power, and of unequal treatment, and declined to give his assent to the bill in the form it was presented to him.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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