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Legislative proposals: Agreements in the Conciliation Committee

Legislative proposals: Agreements in the Conciliation Committee
Legislative proposals: Agreements in the Conciliation Committee

Five laws were on the agenda of the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, but not all of them will pass. What was decided – and what that means.

Renovation of the rail network, reforms in road traffic law, digitization of the administration: The mediation committee of the Bundesrat and Bundestag reached agreements on several legislative proposals on Wednesday evening. This was announced by Bundesrat President Manuela Schwesig (SPD) following the meeting in Berlin.

The Chamber of States had previously held up the plans. The planned changes now have to be approved by the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The Chamber of States will meet on Friday. Schwesig stressed that the mediation committee is not blocking things, but solving problems in the interests of the citizens.”

Renovation of railway lines for more punctual trains

With a reform of the Federal Railway Expansion Act, the federal government will in future be able to directly contribute to the costs of upkeep and maintenance of the rail network – and not just to construction projects.

The law is important for the general renovation of important railway lines. By 2030, the railway wants to completely renovate 40 heavily used routes in order to become more punctual and reliable again. It will start in July this year on the Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim, which will be closed for almost six months.

Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said: “We are introducing a paradigm shift in the rail infrastructure of the Federal Republic of Germany. Nothing will stay as it is and that is a good thing.” This means that measures can now be implemented to improve the rail infrastructure in order to ensure that trains are punctual again. FDP parliamentary group vice-chair Carina Konrad spoke of a good signal to rail customers. SPD parliamentary group vice-chair Detlef Müller said that it was urgently necessary to invest, but also to maintain, repair and renovate.

Cost dispute settled

There was a dispute between the federal government and the states over who would pay for rail replacement bus services. According to a proposed amendment, the states would bear 50 percent of the costs for rail replacement services, the federal government 40 percent and the railway 10 percent.

In addition, the federal government should be able to contribute to more infrastructure costs for the digitization of railways, including equipping trains with digital on-board technology. It should also be easier for the federal government to contribute financially to bringing train stations up to standard. This should also happen as part of the general renovation.

The managing director of the Allianz pro Schiene, Dirk Flege, said: “For decades, Deutsche Bahn had to finance its station buildings largely through rental income. This led to station buildings being sold or being left in poor condition when the rental income was not sufficient. In future, the federal government will assume financial responsibility for the buildings; the railway will assume responsibility for individual, commercially used interior spaces.” The way is now clear for an investment offensive.

Agreement also on road traffic law

The Road Traffic Act is about giving cities and municipalities more leeway, for example to set up bus lanes and 30 km/h zones. In future, in addition to the fluidity and safety of traffic, goals of climate and environmental protection, health and urban development should also be taken into account.

The safety aspect is now to be strengthened. The law passed by the Bundestag stated that, in addition to improving environmental protection, protecting health or supporting urban development, the safety and ease of traffic must also be taken into account – the amendment proposal for the Mediation Committee states that the ease of traffic must be taken into account and that traffic safety must not be compromised.

Wissing said: “What we have had so far is not acceptable.” He spoke, for example, of legal ambiguities regarding the question of whether a 30 km/h zone could be imposed in front of a daycare center. Green Party parliamentary group leader Katharina Dröge said: “Municipalities now finally have more freedom of action to give buses, cyclists and pedestrians more space and thus significantly improve local safety.”

More video conferences in court

Video conferencing technology will be used more frequently in court proceedings in the future. Oral hearings can already be conducted via video conference in civil courts and specialized courts such as administrative, financial, labor and social courts. In the future, this should be possible at the request of a party.

The Federal Council and the Bundestag have now agreed that the use of the technology requires that it is a “suitable case” and that “sufficient capacity” is available. The presiding judge should only have to give a “brief” reason for rejecting an application for image and sound transmission.

Whether negotiations can also take place “fully virtually” is up to the states, which would have to issue corresponding regulations, initially limited to 2033. In this case, all parties involved could participate virtually. Normally, at least the presiding judge must be in the courthouse.

New citizen account to facilitate internet communication with authorities

In the future, citizens will have a uniform electronic account for federal administrative services. Communication with authorities will be able to take place entirely online using the new Germany ID. This is what the new Online Access Act (OZG 2.0) provides for.

Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) welcomed the agreement. She promised: “Digital applications will replace paper forms.” In many cases, going to the office will be unnecessary, and paperwork will come to an end in many areas. “Signatures by hand and on paper are no longer necessary. Many documents only have to be presented once.” In the future, there should be completely digital procedures for companies, which will save a lot of bureaucracy.

In the narrower sense, the OZG 2.0 only refers to federal administrations such as the Federal Employment Agency or the Office for Training Support (Bafög). However, it is also intended to have an impact on the federal states and municipalities. The law stipulates that the federal and state governments will work together in a joint committee over the next two years to develop standards that are binding for all those involved. This is also intended to prevent administrations from writing multiple programs to solve the same problem.

Documentation of main proceedings in court still controversial

However, there is no agreement in sight regarding plans for documenting main hearings. According to the reform plans, the sound will be recorded in the future and then transcribed. In addition, states will also be able to make image recordings. The innovations should be tried out in a test phase at higher regional courts. However, the states doubt the need for them, fear for the protection of victims and warn against excessive effort.

Source: Stern

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