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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times ‘Contempt of the legislature’ absurd

‘Contempt of the legislature’ absurd

The opposition parties wished to expand the power of the Legislative Yuan — without a clear understanding of the differences between the Taiwanese and US systems — and proposed an amendment for a charge of “contempt of the legislature.”

This is akin to taping a dull vegetable knife to the end of a bamboo pole and calling it a spear.

It is true that the US has a “contempt of Congress” charge, but this was established under a separation of powers framework under the US constitution and was supplemented by the US Congress’ regulations and needs.

The blue-white coalition in the Legislative Yuan has rearranged the seating and turned the legislature into their own self-important performance stage. If they do not expand legislative powers, then they would shrink their own performance space.

People had hoped that the direction of legislature reforms would bolster its self-governance and transparency. However, it has instead been transformed into an exhibition gallery for absurd draft legislation.

One of the latest absurdities is this proposal for the charge of “contempt of the legislature.”

Opposition parties claim that they are emulating the US model. However, the US’ version was established by a bicameral legislature and on the basis of legislators’ right to inquiry and a hearing.

The US does not have a Control Yuan or similar government with this separation of power.

Moreover, the US Congress’ investigative powers are mostly used on investigations that have legislative necessity and are not supervisory in nature.

In Taiwan, where the government has five separate branches of government, the Control Yuan wields powers of supervisory investigations.

On the other hand, the legislature uses methods such as committees and public hearings to conduct investigations necessary for legislation.

Taiwan’s grand justices have handed down judgements clarifying that although the Legislative Yuan is not restricted from conducting investigations, executive government bodies have the privilege of not being subject to legislative investigations. Moreover, even if the legislature wants access to documents, it cannot obstruct a judicial investigation.

Under legal interpretations by grand justices and the Constitution, the proposal to expand the investigative rights of the legislature would codify it so that whenever one does not comply with an investigation, they would be charged with “contempt of the legislature.”

It is unclear what exactly legislators are attempting to investigate when they think of conducting investigations.

Apparently, the bill’s proposers are obsessed with becoming prosecutors. If that is the case, then they ought not to serve as legislators, but should instead apply to be prosecutors.

Additionally, charges of “contempt of Congress” correspond to the US’ manifold scope of ethics and disciplinary regulations for its lawmakers.

Take the US House of Representatives for example. There are the House Committee on Ethics and the Office of Congressional Ethics, which are responsible for reviewing improper behavior and conduct of lawmakers, and congressional executive staff and personnel. When discipline is needed, a small investigation team is formed, which carries out its investigation through rigorous procedures.

These investigative teams can exact the following measures on lawmakers behaving inappropriately: Demand an apology, issue fines, censure or restrict committee access, publicly condemn or expel the lawmaker from the US Congress and even strip the lawmaker of credentials.

In December last year, former Republican US representative from New York George Santos was expelled from Congress.

The Legislative Yuan, apart from its moderate methods, already has a Legislators’ Conduct Act (立法委員行為法), which is of little use. Self-control and disciplinary regulations are so few that one could count the number of such laws on one’s hands.

There is almost no method of supervision or checks and balances for legislators-at-large, who do not have to face electoral recalls.

Do the legislators who proposed this “contempt of the legislature” draft act want to learn about the US? They are welcome to learn all about US law.

These new legislators do not need to rush to amend the act.

The off-topic conduct of these regulation committee members is instead demanding the improper expansion of powers to greatly turn up the volume of their stage performance.

Having contempt for committee members such as these would honestly be a good thing.

Carol Lin is a professor in the school of technology law at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.

Translated by Tim Smith

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/03/15

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