San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Transit law fails inspection -- again

A review committee has found mistakes and constitutional violations in the Transit Law reforms passed last week that once again could stall Costa Rica´s new get-tough measures against bad drivers, according to a report released Tuesday by the legislature´s Technical Services Department.

One problem, according to Llihanny Linkimer, one of the report´s coauthors, is in the numbering of articles, which appears to have become jumbled when legislators were voting on the more than 200 proposed modifications.

“When motions are presented on the floor they almost always say to introduce new articles and move over the numbers,” Linkimer said. “It´s difficult to monitor the change in numbering.”

The review team found that some sections of the law referred to other sections that either no longer exist – because lawmakers had voted to remove them – or that had changed their place in the law. For example, while lawmakers had agreed to eliminate the drivers´ points system, certain articles still refer to the number of points a motorist could lose should he or she break the law.

“I think this exercise of handing in (the text) to be reviewed for corrections is a good exercise that there wasn´t time for the last time, when everybody threw motions in and voted in a big whirlwind,” Linkimer said, referring to a 2008 Transit Law bill that was suspended after inconsistencies became apparent.

To confuse matters further, the stricter, original version of the law came back into effect this month, only to be bombarded again by as many as 213 motions proposed by legislators of different parties. Most of the motions sought to soften penalties and lower fines. After whittling away at the original law, lawmakers turned the newly modified text over for close scrutiny by the Technical Services Department last week, hoping for a green light to begin the two votes needed to pass the document into law.

But disorder isn´t the only problem the team found in the reforms. The new text contains sections “that could be unconstitutional,” said Linkimer. For one, the draft obligates universities and other independent institutions to offer driving instruction. According to the legal expert, lawmakers must consult these institutions first. Universities, she said, “are practically like little governments within the state. Only they can determine which courses they should offer and what budget should be allotted. A law cannot obligate them to give a course.”

When asked if she believes the legislators will make the fixes in time to approve the new law before the change of government – and lawmakers – on May 8, Linkimer said, “it depends on their political will.”

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