STATE DUMA ADOPTS PRIVILEGES BILL IN 2ND READING

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MOSCOW, August 3 (RIA Novosti) - The State Duma adopted the governmental bill on beneficial payments in the second reading on Tuesday.

With the necessary 226 votes, the document was supported by 304 deputies of the lower house with 120 against and 1 abstention.

The State Duma will consider the draft law in the third reading on August 5.

The document introduces amendments into 155 federal laws and cancels the validity of 41 laws.

In the first reading, the bill was adopted by the house on July 2. But, as parliamentarians themselves admitted, the document was not complete and needed major corrections.

In the words of United Russia faction leader, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, during consultations of the faction with the government, they managed to agree on all principled issues of the draft law.

The speaker specified that by the second reading, over 5,000 amendments were submitted, and the house's budget committee recommended over 1,000 adopted.

"The bill underwent major revisions without the change of its concept," Mr. Gryzlov said. In his opinion, an increased public interest in the document is explained by the fact that the law touches upon the interests of over 30 million Russians.

The document brings the federal legislation in line with the Law on delimitation of authorities and budget commitments of all levels of power.

Starting from 2005, part of natural privileges (except for privileges in the housing and communal services) are transferred to the monetary form. The size and procedure of this transfer will be determined by the government.

The deputies insisted that the provision on the minimal size of wages be preserved in the Labor legislation, and that a norm on the impossibility to reduce the wages of public sector workers lower than the level fixed as of December 31, 2004 be introduced.

The bill also preserved state guarantees on granting social services to Chernobyl-affected people and those residing in the Extreme North. Issues of the use of regional northern coefficients were taken into account.

Besides, the norm on the so-called social package was introduced. This package worth 450 rubles (some $15.5) includes privileged commuter travel, provision of medicine and resort treatment.

Deputies who disagreed with the law discussed suggested that the house be dissolved in connection with the adoption of the law on beneficial payments.

The draft of a relevant amendment to the provision on the adoption of the federal law on beneficial payments was submitted by KPRF deputies. The Communists said "the results of this law introduction will radically differ from the election campaign promises of all political parties and election blocs."

Sergei Baburin, the State Duma Vice Speaker from the Rodina faction, proposed a similar amendment - "to declare from the moment of the beneficial payments law becoming effective the fourth convocation State Duma dissolved ahead of time."

The chairman of the Duma Labor and Social Policy Committee, Andrei Isayev, called this suggestion unconstitutional and called on the deputies not to support it.

With the necessary 226 votes, the amendment was backed by 99 deputies with 63 against and two abstentions.

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