Editorial: statemanship v cheap points hunt

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Photo: edgeofafrica.com

Assessing the legislation, we paint quite a good picture of responsibility shown at Toompea.  Five years ago, Estonian Service Industry Association initiated its best/worst law competition doing a decent job reflecting the words/deeds balance in our politicians. Wanting to get something done in earnest v pure populism.

Always, a glass can be seen to be half full or half empty. There are the years when a positive piece of legislation is basically absent, from good practice point of view, and the trash mountain towered to the sky. Last year, it wasn’t that bad.

In various instances, the approach has been transparent and substantiated, the public involved and the bills properly prepared. Like the constitutional amendment to lower voting age, okayed by several memberships running and passing all stages of public opinion formation. The constitution having served us well, light-handed tinkering is not advisable.

With Citizen Act amendment declared best by jury and Code of Criminal Procedure amendment, we saw a caring attitude and harmony with public interest.  

On the dark side – while good practice prescribes predictability, involvement and impact analysis – the 2015 worst i.e. amendment of Social Tax Act, Income Tax Act and other acts sinned against them all. Hurriedly, VAT was raised for accommodation institutions and excises at times rose up to tenfold. Instead of sound mind, the legislative process was spurred by irresponsible election promises.

Neither can we talk about good legal practice when transparency, openness and statesmanship are replaced by lies, misunderstanding and at times the intentional beating about the bush. By popular vote, what was voted to be worst was the political circus around implementation clauses for Registered Partnership Act. With unity lacking in coalition, the act was passed without the implementation clauses. A situation was thus created where an amendment in legal order was arbitrary and treacherous towards addressees of the act and thus against good practice.  

With legislation, principles may not depend on political gusts and winds. Laws may be passed or not passed, but there has to be a certain culture to how legal space gets shaped, with lines not to be crossed. Let’s strive towards that, whether we have the left or right in power, or whether it’s election year or not.