The one hundred and three (103) members of the 53rd Legislature, comprising 73 Representatives and 30 Senators are expected to resume the 2nd Special Extraordinary Session in their respective Chambers (Sessions) beginning tomorrow, November 8 through Thursday December 8, to pass legislations, in accordance with Article 29 of the Constitution; which says, “the legislative power is vested in the Legislature of Liberia which shall consist of… a Senate and a House of Representatives both of which must pass on all legislation.”
The Legislators’ return to work is in consonance with the proclamation issued by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, requesting them to return to a Special Session, beginning November 8 thru December 8, 2016.
According to a Foreign Affairs Ministry release quoting the Proclamation, members of the Legislature are to assemble in their respective Chambers to discuss and act upon matters of national concern requiring urgent decisions and actions.
Article 32(b) of the Constitution gives the President the authority to extend a regular session of the Legislature or call a special or extraordinary session of the body to discuss and act upon matters of national emergency by the issuance of a Proclamation.
“The President shall, on his/her own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern. When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the proclamation shall be issued not later than forty-eight hours after receipt of the certificate by the President.”
The release indicated that pursuant to Article 32(b) of the Constitution, the Presidential Proclamation states: “I do hereby issue this Proclamation for the 53rd Legislature to return for a Special Session by assembling in each of their respective Chambers in the Capitol Building, in the City of Monrovia,
Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia, to discuss and act upon matter of national concern, for a period one month.”
Meanwhile, according to political pundits, at the top of the Executive’s agenda could be the Special Amendment to the Revenue Code of 2011 to support the ‘Contingent Revenue’ in the already endorsed FY16/17 Budget.
The amendment includes the imposition of one cent (US$0.01) per minute on phone calls, as well as increased taxes on tobacco, alcoholic beverages and other revenue related adjustments.
President Sirleaf wrote the Legislature (House of Representatives and Senate) that beginning July 1, the government will more than double the excise tax on all tobacco products if the Legislature approves the Special Amendment to the Liberia Revenue Code (LRC) as she proposed. In addition, every call within Liberia would be expected to incur a tax of US$0.01 (1 U.S. cent).
The imposition of excise tax of $0.01 per minute on phone calls was proposed by the President to support the 2016/2017 Fiscal Budget.
In her letter to the Legislature, the President also asked for increase in the excise rate on alcoholic beverages from 35% to 45% and more than double the excise rate on tobacco products, from 35% to 80%.
The Chief Executive further requested the adjustment in the GST rate from 7% to 10%; a revision of Section 16 to grant Special Investment Incentives to certain businesses; as well as a revision on Section 904 on the Advance Payment or Turnover Tax.
The special amendment to the LRC, according to President Sirleaf, is to provide incentives for additional investment in the economy and the direct revenue implication of US$30.1 million to support the FY16/17 National Budget.
Another landmark bill would be the Land Right Bill, Local Governance Act and the Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation Act.
The House of Representatives passed the establishment of seven Special Legislative Constituencies for which an additional seven members would be elected, in addition to the already 73, totaling 81members in the House.
The Senate’s version of the Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation provides the establishment of 21 Special Legislative Constituencies for which an additional 21 members of the House of Representatives shall be elected – with 15 seats for women, 3 seats each for the youth and persons living with disabilities.
The House’s concurrence, which has altered the Senate’s account, would compel a Conference Committee comprised of both Houses to reconcile the Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation Act.