Lawmakers approve Social Security loan, highway fund during extraordinary period

September 2, 2016

The Legislative Assembly passed six bills during the August extraordinary period of lawmaking, including funding for several big projects but excluding the major bills supporters hoped would get passed.

The president sets the legislative agenda during the extraordinary period rather than the Assembly.

Among the most relevant, lawmakers approved a World Bank loan to the Social Security System designed to improve the system’s long-term sustainability.

They also approved financing to expand the Florencio del Castillo highway between the capital San José and Cartago province. The road is heavily used by commuters and farmers north of Cartago who are among the country’s top vegetable producers.

They also signed into law a bill requiring top officials at public agencies to submit annual work reports. The bill requires the reports to be presented to the Legislative Assembly and made available to the public on the internet.

Major bills still pending

Eight bills were approved in a first round of voting but still need a second vote, which should come for at least some of the bills during the ordinary period of lawmaking that started Sept 1.

Among the bills that passed the first voting hurdle is a series of reforms to the country’s Penal Code setting prison sentences for adults engaging in sex with minors.

Lawmakers also gave an initial thumbs up to Costa Rica’s adherence to the global agreement on climate change reached during the United Nations conference held in Paris last year.

And they passed the long-awaited Animal Welfare Bill in a first round of voting, along with a plan to curb tobacco smuggling and a bill that would modify the structure of the presidential security and intelligence agency.

More productive this year

This year’s August session was an improvement over the Legislative Assembly’s productivity during last year’s August session, when just one bill was passed.

Presidency Minister Sergio Alfaro said the government is aware the current pace of bill approval is not optimum, especially efforts to pass a fiscal reform bill. On Thursday evening, the legislative Committee on Financial Affairs continued debating 15 motions filed against the bill as currently worded.

The six bills approved in August equal the number passed in August 2013 during the administration of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda (2010-2014) and surpass the four bills approved in August 2008 during President Oscar Arias Sánchez’s term (2006-2010).

The current Assembly has passed 148 bills since it took office in 2014.

The ordinary session that began Thursday runs Sept. 1 – Nov. 30.

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