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Mar 3, 2008

Sunshine laws

As Jerome Keating recently pointed out, way back in 2006, which is ancient history in the electorate's memory, then-KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou made a number of promises about what he would do to reform the KMT and help prepare for a 2008 victory. From December 2006:

[Ma] pledged to resolve the party assets problem by next June and said the party
would not operate any businesses once the asset problem was removed.

That didn't happen. Instead he sold three large pieces of property and kept the money, which hardly resolves the party assets problem. He also promised to move forward on the arms purchase bill, which sorta happened (only part of the budget was passed):

"The Republic of China is a sovereign country ... The right of the Legislative Yuan to review the bill should be respected," Ma said in a meeting with the press. "[The KMT] will support the bill if it's necessary. National defense concerns everybody, and our stance should not be influenced by an AIT representative."

And earlier than that, even, in July 2006, Ma promised to pass the sunshine bills, which is the real subject of todays' post:

On Wednesday, Ma vowed during a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting that his party would push the "sunshine bills" and pass related bills in September when
the new legislative session opens....

"Ma may not understand that KMT lawmakers have been blocking the `sunshine bills' for the past few years, and we are glad to see that Ma is finally willing to deal with the laws that could do something about the KMT's stolen assets," [DPP whip] Ker [Chien-ming] said.

Some background on these so-called "sunshine laws" which are designed to increase government transparency and help stem corruption:

The "sunshine bills" refer to a series of proposed anti-corruption laws, namely, draft laws on the disposition of assets improperly obtained by political parties, a lobbying bill, a bill covering political parties, a statute governing the Ministry of Justice's anti-corruption bureau, amendments to the Act on Property Declaration by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法), the Legislators' Conduct Act (立法委員行為法) and the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法). ...

The DPP's nine sunshine laws cover more ground than the KMT's four sunshine laws. The DPP's proposals regulate not only public servant exercise of power but also conflicts of interests after retirement or in subsequent employment, the acceptance of political donations and lobbying in the legislature. They are stricter and more sophisticated, and extend to party assets and political donations as well as campaign spending.

OK, well the KMT didn't pass such legislation during Ma's term as chairman, and that is perhaps the single most important set of bills that could be passed in the eight years of the DPP's administration.

But oh wait! Your KMT dominated legislature, despite its total stranglehold on the agenda, not only failed to pass the sunshine bills in 2006, and 2007, and early 2008... but just last week! Apparently, the KMT is in no hurry to pass these measures, and has struck down a proposal to move them out of committee and to a second reading:

[KMT caucus whip Alex Fai (費鴻泰)] said the caucus made the decision because there is no urgent need to put the amendments directly to a second reading.
Fai said legislative committees should be allowed to exercise their authority to review amendments, adding that the caucus would also propose its own versions of amendments to the sunshine bills.

Quiz time: do you think KMT amendments would be stricter, or less strict? (answer: less strict). And how can Fai say these bills still need time to be reviewed with a straight face?

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