LegCo finance chief keen to cut filibusters
Legislative Council Finance Committee Chairman Chan Kin-por on Thursday said he was drafting new measures to cut filibusters in meetings, as the committee took an average 4.2 hours to approve one item in the 2016-17 legislative year, double the time in the previous year.
Briefing the media on the committee’s work for the year at the end-ofsession press conference, Chan proposed amendments to the committee’s procedures. This includes allowing each lawmaker to table only one motion during each item deliberation, and banning lawmakers from raising more than one adjournment motion in meetings.
Chan said he believed the amendments would effectively enhance the Finance Committee’s efficiency as some 30 percent of meeting time would be spared. This would give lawmakers more time for discussing items on the agenda.
Among the 64 meetings deliberat- ing government funding requests held in 2016-17, the committee spent 10 percent of its time — 12 hours — to handle motions tabled by lawmakers, up from 7.3 percent in the previous year, Chan said.
Lawmakers also raised motions to around 60 percent of the 29 items deliberated in committee meetings. In the previous year, lawmakers tabled motions to only 20 percent of items on the agenda, Chan said.
Paragraph 37A of the Finance Committee Procedure stipulates that a member can move a motion to express a view on the agenda item without notice during deliberations on the item.
Chan said such permission was “an effective filibuster tool” and some lawmakers abused it to express their opinions, often about issues irrelevant to the items on the committee’s agenda.
Such behavior affected the progress of Finance Committee meetings since he had to allocate much time to handle them, Chan said.
Particularly, committee proceed- ings were obstructed by individual members’ disorderly behavior, as a way of political grandstanding against the High Court decision of disqualification of four lawmakers. Chan said he felt “very anxious” about this, as the meetings were held up.
The High Court on July 14 disqualified four opposition lawmakers from their seats in LegCo for violating the legal requirements of oath-taking when being sworn in.
Meanwhile, some 16 hours of Finance Committee meeting time were occupied as lawmakers tabled adjournment motions to meetings, accounting for 13 percent of total time.
“I feel sad as items which concerned people’s livelihoods and infrastructure projects were not deliberated and approved,” Chan noted.
He added that he would present the amendments to lawmakers in October when the LegCo starts its new work year.
Chan Kin-por, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, presented his annual work report on Thursday, a day before the end of the current legislative year. He expressed great dismay at the record low efficiency of the Finance Committee this past year, and proposed several measures to prevent blatant waste of working hours through various forms of filibustering. Since all the committee’s proceedings have been well recorded and covered by the press, members of the public are well aware of who blocked what bill with filibusters throughout the legislative year. Those “guilty parties” have been warned repeatedly they will pay for their wrongdoings one way or another, especially when it’s for LegCo elections.
Chan revealed in his annual report that the committee spent 4.2 hours on average deliberating over each item, or two hours more than last year. And those two hours were more often than not used on handling requests for adjournment or roll calls, the most blatant waste of public resources and precious LegCo time because the sponsors didn’t want to perform the duties they were paid to do. Such unacceptable behavior not only hurts public interest by indefinitely delaying the passage of funding for projects designed to serve welfare needs or improve people’s livelihood but also gives representative democracy a bad name.
The proposed preventive measures, if adopted, should help reduce the wanton waste of legislative working hours by a considerable margin. That is why the usual filibuster sponsors and their fans will do everything they can to block the preventive measures and Chan said he expects fierce opposition because of this but he also believes members of the public would support his proposal once they see numbers and how the measures will work. We agree with and support Chan because he is trying to stop lawmakers from harming public interest by delaying the passage of funding bills in total disregard of the negative consequences their belligerent acts entail.
Very often in the past few legislative years people noticed a growing trend in which opposition parties openly turned their hatred for Leung Chun-ying, chief executive at the time, into unjustifiable acts of political sabotage in the name of “true democracy”. The Finance Committee’s plight was no doubt part of that show of desperation and vengeance but the fifth-term special administrative region government has just started operating with a new governing style aimed at reducing social division and building harmony, including more efforts to improve the executive-legislative relationship. This is a good opportunity for the opposition camp to replace their hate-driven strategy with something constructive, if only for their own good.