Riigikogu committee holding public hearing into family benefits amendments

The Riigikogu's Consitutional Committee's office.
The Riigikogu's Consitutional Committee's office. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Riigikogu's Constitutional Committee is holding a public hearing today, Tuesday, to discuss amendments to family benefits legislation which President Alar Karis last week declined to give assent to.

An extraordinary Riigikogu sitting, called while the chamber is on its Christmas break, is to follow Wednesday and will revisit the amendments to the Family Benefits Act and related legislation.

The Constitutional Committee's chair, Eduard Odinets (SDE), said the president's arguments for not promulgating the legislation will be the topic for discussion at the public hearing.

The committee will then form a position on whether to propose parliament re-adopts the law in an unchanged form, or makes amendments to it.

Odinets said: "As chair of the Constitutional Committee, I propose the committee support the amendment of the legislation, in order to correct earlier technical mistakes, and to prevent injustice and the unequal treatment of children."

The president's legal adviser, Hent-Raul Kalmo, has also been invited to the committee's hearing, which ERR's online Estonian news will be live-broadcasting.

The legislation would amend the Family Benefits Act, the Family Law Act and the Employment Contracts Act, to boost the allowance for the first and second child a family has to €60 per month, while the allowance for a single parent's child would rise from €19.18 to €80, from January 1.

Larger families (with three or more children) would have benefited the most from the legislative amendment, which would double their monthly allowance.

 The allowance for a family with three to six children would rise from €300 to €650 per month; for families with seven or more children, the allowance would similarly rise, from €400 to €850 per month for seven or more children. 

The legislation also stipulates that from May 1, 2024, the allowance for families with children be indexed to the pension index.

Kadriorg found the amendments unconstitutional, arguing they entailed the arbitrary exercise of state power.

The president also cited unequal treatment in relation to families of different sizes, and last week declined to give his assent to the bill, in full accordance with his constitutional powers.

The bill had passed its third Riigikogu reading on December 7.

The five political parties represented in parliament said just before the Christmas holiday that they had found a consensus on moving forward with the bill.

The extraordinary session begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday, December 28, while representatives from the social affairs and justice ministries will also be in attendance. The public hearing component of the sitting starts at 1 p.m. Estonian time.

On Wednesday, a full Riigikogu session starts at 9 a.m., and representatives of the Constitutional Committee and the Social Affairs Committee will make presentations and answer MPs' questions, one of which is allocated per member.

The floor is then open for debate, after which a vote will be held on whether to re-adopt the law unamended. If this is voted down, a deadline is set for submitting amendments, while the bill's second and third (of three) readings will be held at an additional sitting on Wednesday.

Wednesday's extraordinary Riigikogu sitting will also address extending into the new year the payment of sick leave from day two of a period of illness, will require the second and third readings of the bill which would enact this, to be processed in the one day.

The Riigikogu reconvenes fully on January 9.

The general election takes place on March 5 2023, meaning the XIV Riigikogu only has a few weeks left in which to process legislation.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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