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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Has 600 Bills on Its Plate

The State Duma, which reconvenes Wednesday after the New Year's break, will consider nearly 600 bills in its spring session, giving priority to bills on water, forestry, subsoil resources and terrorism, Speaker Boris Gryzlov said Tuesday.

Gryzlov said that out of the 577 bills, 97 of them would be considered in January.

"January is going to be a very intense month," Gryzlov told reporters after a meeting of the Duma Council, which draws up the Duma's schedule.

Gryzlov said that the Duma would give priority to 52 bills, among them the new Water and Forestry codes, which have previously encountered resistance from many governors who fear losing control over their water and timber resources to the federal government.

Another important bill the Duma is set to consider is the first reading of a new subsoil resources bill that would clarify mining rights and limit foreign companies' ability to lead the extraction of key oil, gas and metals deposits, Gryzlov said.

The bill, which was submitted by the Natural Resources Ministry, was shelved in November amid uncertainty over how a ban or limit to the involvement of foreign firms in mineral resources that Russia sees as strategic would work.

Another important bill scheduled for the spring session is the second reading of an anti-terrorism bill, Gryzlov said. The bill was passed in its first reading in the wake of the Beslan school attack in September 2004, but was put on ice after President Vladimir Putin said it restricted freedoms last spring. The bill has been softened since then, but both independent media and human rights activists have said it remains too repressive.

Deputy Speaker Vladimir Pekhtin told reporters Tuesday that the Duma also planned to prepare agriculture and anti-corruption bills.

Gryzlov said that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev would brief deputies on Wednesday about measures to improve social benefits for police officers and the military, as well as their families.

Gryzlov said that any ministers who did not respond with their comments to bills the Duma was considering should lose their bonuses.

"I proposed that those ministers who don't file their comments on time to the Duma should be punished," Gryzlov said.

He added that deputies often had to wait for months before receiving ministerial feedback.

The Duma is to consider in a first reading on Wednesday a bill that the Communist Party is sponsoring that calls for ministers to respond to Duma bills with their comments within one month.

But Gryzlov said that even if the Duma wanted to back the measure, the bill was unlikely to pass, since it violated some articles of the Constitution.

He did not elaborate.

On April 27, the Duma will hold a special session in St. Petersburg to celebrate the centenary of the first Duma, Pekhtin said.