Legislative Assembly sittings planned for next week

Pension and Immigration changes will be up for MLAs approval

Lawmakers are set to meet next week to review and approve changes to local legislation which would allow private sector employees access to their pension funds.

Premier Alden McLaughlin announced on Thursday that he has secured agreement from Opposition Leader Arden McLean to hold two meetings of the Legislative Assembly next week.

The first meeting, he said, will be held on Wednesday, 22 April.

“The purpose of that meeting will be to approve amendments to the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly which will allow the Legislative Assembly to then meet electronically or virtually,” McLaughlin said as he addressed the daily COVID-19 briefing.

The premier said both he and McLean have agreed that only six government members will be in the chamber and four from the Opposition, which includes the two independent members, for that meeting “in order to facilitate the requirement for the necessary physical distancing”.

He said once the amendment to the Standing Orders are agreed, the House will then go into committee.

“Once those are approved, the governor will then be asked to signify his approval to the change in the Standing Orders and, once that is done, we propose to have a substantive meeting of the House the following day, Thursday, 23 April, to consider a number of things,” he said.

Among the items on the agenda is the election of a new deputy speaker.

Former deputy speaker Bernie Bush resigned earlier this year after allegations of assault were made against House Speaker McKeeva Bush.

McKeeva Bush took a leave of absence from speakership duties following the allegations relating to an assault on the female manager of a West Bay Road bar.

The police have completed their investigation into the incident. A file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision, which is still pending.

Law changes to be debated during virtual sitting

Premier McLaughlin said, as well as the election of the deputy speaker, legislators will also review proposed changes to the Pensions Law, Traffic Law and Immigration Law.

The changes to the Pension Law, he said, will deal with the proposed six-month pension contribution holiday “as well as a change to permit the withdrawal by pension account holders of some of their pension funds to assist them through this crisis”.

He said government is still debating the precise percentages that workers will be allowed to access.

“I do not want to create expectations now which I then have to come back and explain we have changed, but that should be done in a fairly short order,” he said.

The premier said the changes will not apply to public pension funds, only private sector funds.

“I am not sure on what basis relating to this crisis that civil servants would feel that they should trouble their pensions,” he said as he assured that there were no plans to make salary cuts for civil servants.

Changes to the Traffic Law will allow Cabinet to exempt various categories of fees and functions principally for the purpose of allowing vehicle registrations to be renewed without the vehicle having to be inspected during the COVID-19 crisis. It will also address the issue of drivers’ permit renewals.

The premier also said proposed amendments to the Immigration Law will be presented to allow Cabinet to exempt individuals for a given period of time during the emergency to “remain lawfully landed and to work” even though permit applications have not been renewed or renewal applications have not been submitted.

He added that Cabinet has agreed to request the Cayman Islands Development Bank to offer a three-month loan payment holiday for customers of the bank, subject to the approval of its board of directors.

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