A bill amending this year's state budget passed its second reading on Monday, following a filibuster from opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) last week which resulted in MPs having to burn the midnight oil.
The bill does not relate to the 2024 state budget which is currently being processed at the Riigikogu and is subject to the filibuster, but rather amendments to this year's state budget, and involves redistributing funds.
This seemingly quotidian bill has been the subject of heightened media interest due to EKRE blocking its passing as part of a more far-reaching filibuster.
What the bill does do is alter the distribution of expenses via activities, the so-called activity-based budget, and the redistribute funds between expenses and investments.
The EKRE started engaging in the obstruction of this particular act from mid-week last week.
Most of its 17 MPs presented amendments, 88 of them in total, between the first and second reading.
Additionally, the Riigikogu's finance committee submitted one amendment, though this contained several sub-amendments primarily specifying costs, according to the Riigikogu's press service.
Whereas 61 of these 89 amendments were voted on by the end of Riigikogu business last Thursday, the remaining 28 were reviewed at Monday's session, but no votes were held and no breaks taken.
EKRE MPs had demanded a 10 minute break between each amendment last week; a sessions starting 2 p.m. on Wednesday ran through to just after 9.30 a.m. on the Thursday morning.
Under the terms of the State Budget Act, the government may initiate changes to a state budget act to pertaining to that year, 2023 in this case, without altering the total amount of funds – ie. redistributing funds in effect.
These amendments may be made no later than two months before the end of the fiscal year (which runs to the end of March).,
The most substantive amendments to legislation at the Riiigikogu may be made between the first and second readings. While amendments can also be made between the second and third (and final) reading, these are only cosmetic changes.
Proposals for amendments to the 2023 State Budget Act Amendment Bill (303 SE) as initiated by the government can be submitted until 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 15.
The main state budget bill usually passes just before the Riigikogu breaks up for its Christmas and New Year recess in mid-December. This year, the 2024 state budget bill has passed its first reading; under the Constitution the state budget bill must pass by March of the year it pertains to.
EKRE had engaged in filibustering in spring and early summer ahead of the Riigikogu's summer recess. That time, it was joined by the other two opposition parties, Isamaa and Center, whereas the recent obstruction has seen EKRE act alone.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots