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July 24, 2017

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Legislative session ends not with a bang, but a whimper

Let's review what the Legislative Yuan has done on the last day of its legislative session.

During the final Yuan Sitting of the session last Tuesday, after hours of negotiations over the amendment to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act regarding wiretapping regulations, the Legislative Yuan finally reached a consensus and agreed to approve the government's 2014 annual budget.

As for the wiretapping regulations they care about, those were also passed on the last day. But what about the Act Governing Food Sanitation, the law that protects the nation's food safety after so many food scandals troubled the country last year? Or the long-stalled draft of a long-term care services law? Neither of them were added to the last Yuan Sitting's agenda.

What happened at the last legislative session was pretty much the result of the so-called "September political strife" that began when the session started last September.

The Special Investigation Division (SID) last September challenged the authority of the Legislative Yuan by revealing an alleged improper lobbying case involving Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘).

First the opposition blocked Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) from taking the podium to deliver his policy report for weeks to protest that the Ma administration "did not show respect" to Wang.

After it was discovered that the SID had wiretapped the Legislative Yuan's switchboard for a month, both the ruling party and the opposition caucus said the wiretapping regulations of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act must be amended.

At the same time the opposition and some Kuomintang lawmakers urged Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who is in charge of the SID, to step down over the controversies. The opposition pledged to force Huang to resign before his term ends this April.

So on the final day of the legislative session, the Legislative Yuan cut Huang's NT$431,000 annual bonus and passed the amendment for monitoring regulations; as for the food safety law, both the ruling party and the opposition passed the responsibility for it to each other.

The Legislature vowed to better protect human rights by amending the wiretap regulations, but they neglected to protect people's food safety. Was it unintentional like they claimed? Or was it the other way around?

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