TALLINN - Parliament voted on July 20 to abolish rent ceilings in restituted houses, bypassing the presidential veto on the same amendments at the end of June.
Forty-seven MPs voted to adopt the amendments to the Housing Act, while 36 voted against. The main political support for dropping the rentceilings came from Res Publica, the Reform Party, both coalition members, and the oppositional Pro Patria Union.
After the vote, President Arnold Ruutel will either have to declare the amendments as law or appeal to the Supreme Court in the hope of having justices find them unconstitutional. If the court rules that they are legal, then the president must promulgate them.
Originally the law was passed on June 15 with 50 votes for, 37 against and no abstentions, but Ruutel refused to promulgate it, arguing that the date stipulated in the amendments left those affected (apartment renters) with little time to alter their living arrangements.
This, in the president's opinion, did not comply with the principle of legal certainty in Article 10 of the constitution.
Despite his reservations, and a plea to all sides to find a compromise, both parliamentary committees dealing with the bill decided to put it back up for a parliamentary vote without changes.
"We went over in great detail the things that had been issues during the first and second readings. The president's reasoning as to why he didn't promulgate the law was also discussed in detail," Reform Party member Silver Meikar told the Baltic News Service. "It was found that there is no contradiction with the constitution, and with a 6-1-1 vote, it was decided to put the [bill] to a vote today without changes."
The constitutional committee also ruled to take the draft legislation back to the chamber as was. The proposal was adopted with six deputies in favor and two Center Party members plus one People's Union member voting against.
Parliament was set to gather for an emergency session on July 20, to rehandle amendments removing the possibility of applying a maximum rent limit in houses restituted to their pre-World War II owners.