San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Assembly Starts Year 3

As lawmakers celebrated the beginning of their third year in office on Thursday, hopes were high for greater political consensus.

Bickering over free trade paralyzed the Legislative Assembly for months last year, allowing lawmakers to pass just 47 laws during the past 12 months, one-third fewer than during the previous period.

“Now there is renewed hope that lawmakers can reach accords that have eluded us,” said Assembly President Francisco Pacheco, who was re-elected yesterday for a third term.

Every year on May 1, lawmakers elect a new directors board, the assembly’s party leaders speak, and the president gives a State of the Union address.

The National Liberation Party (PLN) won five of six spots on the directors board, which runs daily sessions and appoints staff.

The next two years will be tough for the Arias administration, as an economic slowdown in the United States and surging prices threaten to drag down the economy and increase poverty.

Still, tough times may inspire lawmakers to compromise on bills, after two years of mudslinging over the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States.

On the legislative agenda this year are proposals to fight crime, speed public concession projects, eradicate shantytowns and increase penalties for traffic violations.


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