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Objection in the Bundesrat to amendment to the Federal Ministries Act

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Upper house of parliament unanimously rejects amendment due to an editorial oversight

Vienna (PK) – Due to an editorial error in the drafting of the bill, the Bundesrat today unanimously objected to the amendment to the Federal Ministries Act, which deals with the legal framework for the recent shifts in competences in the federal government. As a result, the bill will be sent back to the National Council, which will have to deal with it again.

The results of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” were also discussed in the Länder chamber. A motion for a resolution tabled during the session, in which the FPÖ objected, among other things, to the fact that the final report of the Future Conference called for an end to the principle of EU unanimity and advocated the rejection of a convention to implement the demands of the Future Conference, remained in the minority. The final report was more “appearance than reality” and influenced by “EU centralists”, was the thrust of the FPÖ’s criticism.

The federal councillors did not object to an extension of special provisions specific to corona, to adjustments in short-time work allowances and to the future possibility of regulating special exemptions for pregnant women by decree.

Amendment to the Federal Ministries Act returns to the National Council

Andrea Eder-Gitschthaler (ÖVP/S) explained that an editorial error had occurred when drafting the text of the law regulating the latest shifts in government competences, the amendment to the Federal Ministries Act. An amendment containing editorial corrections and clarifications had not been taken into account in the committee report of the Constitutional Committee of the National Council. Therefore, an objection must now be raised and the matter must be put on the agenda again by the National Council. In addition, Eder-Gitschthaler stressed that the restructuring of the ministries to be carried out with the bill was in any case well thought out.

In contrast, Elisabeth Grimling (SPÖ/W) criticized that the amendment was the result of several government reshuffles, which entailed drastic changes due to numerous shifts in competences, for example that “unpleasant projects were broken down into unclear components”. The changes would also affect a number of employees, whose situation in terms of employment law and staff representation would be made more difficult. She regretted that it had been announced today that the law still had to be corrected for the colleagues in the affected departments who were waiting for the distribution of competences.

Johannes Hübner (FPÖ/W) said that the fact that the amendment now had to be objected to was due to a “flood of laws” that had got “out of hand”. This overloaded parliament and all those involved and represented a huge administrative burden. A law, with which competences are “shifted back and forth in such a way”, only so that no collision occurs, should not be decided in any case in his view.

Marco Schreuder (Greens/W) took the situation due to the editorial error as an opportunity to make an appreciative reference to the function of the Federal Council. This is also a place where editorial errors can be corrected. Like Karl-Arthur Arlamovsky (NEOS/W), he spoke of the fact that the amendment would be discussed again by the Länderkammer in two weeks. Arlamovsky also said that it was the amendment in question, with which the “dislocation” of the shift in competence at the Ministry of Finance with regard to ÖBAG was to be corrected again according to him, that caused the current breakdown in the first place. From his point of view, this shows “again” that the governing parties had “bungled”, according to the accusation.

In concrete terms, the present amendment is intended to combine the agendas for labor and the economy in a single department. Responsibility for tourism is to be removed from the Ministry of Agriculture and transferred to the new Federal Ministry of Labor and Economic Affairs. There, the new State Secretary Susanne Kraus-Winkler is to deal with this area. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture will have to hand over further competencies, namely those for civilian service to the Federal Chancellery and those for the regulation of postal and telecommunications services and for mining to the Ministry of Finance. The digitization agendas – and thus responsibility for the Federal Computing Center, for example – will also move to the Ministry of Finance, where Finance Minister Magnus Brunner has also been given a new State Secretary to support him in the form of Florian Tursky.

Results of the Conference on the Future of Europe

After the results of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” launched in 2021 had already been taken up in the EU Committee of the Bundesrat and, for example, also in the context of a discussion forum in Parliament as well as in the National Council, the Bundesrat devoted itself in today’s session to the comprehensive proposals of the citizens on this topic. The final report contains over 300 measures, divided into 49 proposals and nine chapters on climate change and the environment, health, a stronger economy, social justice and the EU’s position in the world. The Länder chamber adopted by a majority a statement by the EU Committee of the Bundesrat attached to the report, according to which the German government should, among other things, actively participate in the follow-up process to the Future Conference. In the course of the debate, EU Minister Karoline Edtstadler emphasized that the proposals would be “taken on board and taken seriously” at EU level. In her view, Austrians in particular have also participated intensively in the process.

The measures recommended at the EU Future Conference are based on the recommendations of the European and national citizens’ forums, the contributions to the digital platform and the results of the debates in the working groups and in the conference plenary. In terms of content, the proposals range from the expansion of cycle paths to the renaming of European institutions. Due to the pandemic, the dialog on the issues of the Future Conference took place primarily in online formats, in which European citizens were able to contribute their ideas. The citizens’ recommendations are now being examined by the EU institutions to determine whether they can be implemented.

Extension of corona-specific special provisions

With the required two-thirds majority, the Bundesrat approved a package of laws extending various corona-specific special provisions until the end of 2022. These include resolutions of local councils and the Council of Ministers without a physical meeting, the use of video technology in administrative proceedings, possible restrictions on party communications, rules of conduct for local inspections, the extension of statutes of limitations and special provisions under public procurement law. Likewise, the Independent Party Transparency Senate, KommAustria including its senates, the Press Subsidies Commission, and the Board of Trustees and the Audience Council of ORF will continue to be allowed to pass resolutions by circular or video conference – the majority of the Bundesrat did not raise any objections to this amendment either.

Higher short-time work subsidies and special exemption for pregnant women by decree

More generous short-time work subsidies are to be available until the end of 2022 for companies experiencing non-seasonal economic difficulties. The necessary amendments to the Labor Market Service Act and the Labor Market Policy Financing Act were approved by a majority in the Bundesrat today. In addition, the initiative motion extends a regulation authorization for the Minister of Labor insofar as he is allowed to adjust the ceiling for short-time work to cope with special economic difficulties of €1 billion for the years 2020 to 2022. Previously this applied only to coping with the COVID 19 crisis.

An amendment to the Maternity Protection Act, also supported by a majority, also authorizes the Minister of Labor until the end of 2022 to regulate corona-related special exemptions for pregnant women by decree in the future, subject to the agreement of the Minister of Health. The justification given is that this will enable a more rapid response to new virus variants.

The mood in the Federal Council was heated in parts and was interrupted briefly for a standing presidential session because of “verbal lapses”. Afterwards, FPÖ Federal Councilor Christoph Steiner apologized for his choice of words. (Continued from Bundesrat) mbu/gs

NOTE: Sessions of the National Council and the Bundesrat can also be followed via livestream and are available as video-on-demand in the parliament’s media library.

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The post Objection in Bundesrat to amendment to Federal Ministries Act appeared first on TOP News Austria – News from Austria and around the world.

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