Christmas consensus in the Senate as bills fly through
Senators rubber-stamped a number of Government bills during a brisk, virtual session of the Upper House yesterday morning.
Streamlining and improved efficiency were the themes of three Acts that were given their second and third readings before being passed.
Government Senator Arianna Hodgson, the junior minister for finance, presented the Companies and Partnerships (Electronic Registry) Amendment Act. The bill will see the Registrar of Companies move to an electronic system whereby all filings are submitted via a portal on the ROC’s website.
Senate vice-president Michelle Simmons supported the change saying that it brought the process into the 21st Century.
“We live in a technological world now and it will facilitate these filings and at the same time it will enable the Registrar of Companies to provide electronic records back to those said companies,” she said.
“I think it is very appropriate at this time.”
The Residential Care Homes and Nursing Homes Act – which transfers some regulatory powers from the Minister of Health to the Bermuda Health Council – was given its second and third readings by Senator Curtis Richardson, junior minister for health.
Again, the bill was passed with general support from Senators.
Senator Owen Darrell, the junior minister for the Cabinet Office, explained that the Immigration and Protection Amendment Act, would “streamline the process of granting of land licences to non-Bermudians”.
“There have been considerable delays in the processing and approval of applicants for lien land licenses,” Mr Darrell said. “The process is cumbersome and manually driven.”
Responding to the bill, Independent Senator John Wight summed up the general feeling of pre-Christmas consensus in the Upper House.
“As the President of the Chamber of Commerce when this was first initiated with Government, this is music to my ears,” he said.
“I think this is a win-win all round and certainly it increases the fees for Government when we need more revenue coming in. This is a terrific initiative. I’m very supportive of this.”
One Bermuda Alliance senator Ben Smith agreed.
He said: “Anything that can increase efficiency and streamlining, we will be supportive of,” adding that he recognised Government had a difficult balancing act between strengthening the economy and protecting the rights of Bermudians wanting to own property.
Earlier during yesterday’s session, Ms Hodgson gave a statement on amendments to employment and labour relations laws.
She said that the Employment Amendment Act – passed in the House of Assembly last Friday – was “a long time in coming”.
The raft of changes in the act includes bringing about fixed-term probationary periods, improved anti-natal care, and expanding bereavement leave entitlement. Employers must also pay outstanding wages and benefits owed to a terminated employee within seven days of termination.
Other amendments bring protections against bullying and sexual harassment.
Ms Hodgson said the act will bring Bermuda in line with international best practices, and provide protections for both employers and employees.
She emphasised that the amendments had been drawn up after an extensive period of consultation with a range of stakeholders.
Ms Hodgson told colleagues that the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act – also passed in the House of Assembly last Friday – will streamline and consolidate all labour disputes under one tribunal.
“This is a significant improvement on the current state of affairs,” she said.
Opposition Senate Leader Marcus Jones said the Trades Union legislation was “a great idea by this Government”.
But his party colleague, Mr Smith, wanted to know if any recommendations that came out of the consultation process had been discarded by Government.
Ms Hodgson said she would provide an answer at the next session.
Business concluded after less than two hours of debate. The Senate will sit again next Monday for its final session before the Christmas break.