A number of high-impact bills are due to land on legislators’ desks this month as the Executive Branch takes charge of their agenda during this month’s extraordinary session.
Among the priorities for President Laura Chinchilla’s administration are a revamped Electricity Law, a new tax on casinos and sportsbooks, and a bill to ban all heavy-metal open-pit mines in the country.
“What we sent (to the Legislative Assembly) is consistent with our government’s program,” said Chinchilla, in explaining her list of bills. “We have also been flexible with the understanding that in order to achieve support for these initiatives, we also need to open ourselves to the priorities of the other parties (in the assembly).”
The bill to tax betting houses has been under discussion for years, but is the linchpin in funding for Chinchilla’s long-discussed security initiative. Although few taxes are popular, the bill has surprisingly gotten the thumbs-up from many online gambling establishments because it would legalize an activity that is receiving increasing scrutiny from law enforcement agencies overseas.
Facing a potential crisis in the energy situation in the country, the Electricity Law seeks to open the market to private companies that place emphasis on clean energy. Teófilo de la Torre, the energy, environment and telecommunications minister, said the country must double its capacity to generate electricity over the next decade, which will require a $1 billion investment.
Also under discussion is a bill to create a Sports Ministry, a proposal to exempt all real estate owned by religious organizations from property taxes, and a request to approve the free-trade agreement with China.
The congressional session referred to as sesiones extraordinarias, in which the president controls the agenda, lasts until the end of August. The Legislative Assembly returns to Chinchilla’s agenda in December, February, March and April. Legislators set their own agenda for the remaining months, which include May, June, July, September, October and November.