Although the week was a plenary one, neither the Verkhovna Rada nor the President proposed any legislative acts of real importance. The President, though, did try to interfere with the judiciary, and the Parliament voted on new regulations on starostas and cancellation of daylight saving time.
Procedure for analyzing court decisions concerning veterans and civic activists
Sponsor: the President.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, judiciary, the SBI, and law enforcement agencies.
What does it change: the bill proposes to introduce a procedure for analyzing recent (since 2014 and up to now) and high-profile cases and decisions concerning war veterans and civic activists that were engaged in countering the Russian aggression or hybrid warfare and could have fallen victims to the discretion of bureaucrats, law enforcement officers, or unjust court decisions.
What is wrong:
- the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the independence of the judiciary and prohibits any state bodies or officials to put pressure on the judiciary. Thus, neither the President nor his advisory or consultative bodies can change or revise court decisions
- to create such a body will be a form of pressure on the judiciary, interference with pre-trial investigations and court proceedings.
- the bill will not fulfill its purpose since the body it proposes to create cannot have the authority to change court decisions even in cases where decisions were made with obvious violations.
- Ukraine needs to reform its judiciary and law enforcement, prevent politicians from influencing investigations and court decisions, update the Code of Criminal Procedure, and investigate the facts of collaboration with the Russian side from judges and law enforcement officers
- the Parliament should pass a law allowing to use the Armed Forces and other military units to counter the armed aggression of Russia. If it is done in compliance with the Constitution, soldiers will not be prosecuted by peacetime laws
- the Parliament should draft a bill amnestying certain categories of war veterans and civilians who fought against Russian forces and countered their subversive actions against Ukraine.
New regulations on starostas (4535)
Status: passed in the first reading.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, local governments, and starostas.
What does the bill change:
- it will be possible to create starosta districts in towns that are not centers of amalgamated communities. According to the current law, such districts can be created only in villages and settlements
- starostas will not be members of executive committees anymore
- starostas will be recognized as employees of their village, settlement, or town councils
- public hearings, meetings, or other forms of public consultations will become a mandatory prerequisite for selecting candidates for the starosta position
- the bill provisions that starosta districts, as a rule, should have no less than 1.5 thousand inhabitants
- acting starostas will be dismissed from their positions the same way as regular starostas.
Why this is important: for people, starosta is the closest representative of local government in their district. The quality of services provided by local executive offices largely depends on his or her work.
What is right: the bill fills in the legal void that makes it impossible to appoint starostas of towns that are not centers of their territorial communities.
What is wrong:
- according to the bill, starostas will be appointed by local councils upon the submission of community heads. At the same time, starostas will have to represent the interests of people living in their districts in local executive offices. A “representation”, though, presupposes that people elect their representatives: MPs, local councilors, oblast councilors, head of their community, etc. If starosta is a subordinate of the head of the community (who also is the head of the executive committee) and of the local council, he or she will not be able to represent the interests of the starosta district properly
- the bill provisions that a starosta is an employee of the city council but does not specify the nature of such employment. As a result, the council will be free to choose whether to make a contract with a starosta or hire him or her as a public servant
- the requirement for a starosta district to have no less than 1.5 thousand inhabitants distorts the logic of creating the districts. Population density differs significantly in different localities and it is counterproductive to enforce a unified standard
- according to the bill, it is possible to retrospectively dismiss acting starostas that held their positions before local elections — since the day new councils assumed their duty (mostly in November of 2020). By trying to introduce ex post facto provision, the bill violates the Constitution.
- Alternative solution:
- to make starostas elected officials and then they will represent people living in their district or take away their authority to represent citizens and then they will be responsible only for implementing local councils’ decisions in their districts
- only local councils should have the authority to create starosta districts. There should be no requirement of how many people live in a district
- to specify that starostas are local government public servants since they have and exercise the authority of public servants.
Voted for the bill: 273 MPs total. 217 — from the Servant of the People, 2 — from European Solidarity, 16 — from For the Future group, 16 — from the group Trust, 16 — from Holos, 7 independents, Opposition Platform — For Life and Batkivshchyna — 0.
Cancellation of daylight saving time (4201)
Status: passed in the first reading.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens and businesses.
What does the bill change: the bill proposes to cancel daylight saving time in Ukraine.
What is right:
- the Constitution requires that weight, measure, and time units should be defined by law. Now, however, they are defined by the Cabinet’s resolution, so the bill covers this gap
- daylight saving time has negative effects on human health, so many countries dispense with it. The EU countries are going to cancel the transition to daylight saving time in 2021.
What’s next: while the bill is prepared for the second reading, MPs have to agree on the date when it is supposed to come into force. It is highly probable that daylight saving time will not be canceled this year.
Voted for the bill: 277 MPs total. 210 — from the Servant of the People, 2 — from Opposition Platform — For Life, 23 — from European Solidarity, 14 — from For the Future group, 1 — from the group Trust, 17 — from Holos, 10 independents, Batkivshchyna — 0.
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