Latvian Saeima passes new Law on Local Governments

On Thursday, 20 October, Latvia’s parliament once again passed in the final reading the new Law on Local Governments. The Saeima also approved Latvian President Egils Levits’ suggestion for corrections in regards to residents’ councils.
The law will come into force on 1 January 2023.
After Levits handed the draft back to the parliament for a repeated reading, Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee passed the regulation that permits Latvian and other EU citizens 16 year or older registered with the Register of Natural Persons of Latvia to be elected to residents’ councils.
On Thursday, 20 October, this committee’s views were passed by the Saeima. Previously the legislative draft contained a mention of residents’ rights to vote for council members. Now this regulation has been clarified in the law.
Representative of the State President’s Chancellery Edgars Stafeckis affirmed at the meeting of the committee that this and other proposals from the Ministry of Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry will help prevent problems previously pointed out by the president.
Following a proposal from Saeima’s lawyer Edvīns Danovskis, the ministry’s original proposal was supplemented with an additional rule that states how other residence or property rights-related conditions for participation in council elections may be imposed in guidelines for councils.

Additionally, it is allowed to elect Latvian and other EU citizens aged 16 or older as council members as long as they are registered with Register of Natural Persons of Latvia.

The law also states which fields councils representing residents’ interests will be able to discuss different topics and submit suggestions to their local administrations.
These will include landscaping and sanitary cleanliness of residential areas. Councils will also have the right to work on different cultural proposals and cultural heritage topics, as well as different business initiatives within their local municipal territories.
Municipal councils will have a duty to determine councils’ opinions before making decisions in regards to important municipal functions if they risk affecting local residents’ interests.
The law included a proposal from Saeima deputy Viktors Valainis.

This proposal provided rights to municipal councils to decide on permitting or banning gambling within their administrative territories.

The proposal from now ex-Saeima deputy Aldis Adamovičs to permit municipal deputies to combine their work with management of municipal education, culture or healthcare institutions.
The law was passed in order to ensure a democratic, legal, efficient, sustainable, transparent and publicly accessible management of municipal territories, as well as balanced accessibility of municipal services.
The law outlines general rules for municipal functions and economic foundation, duties, institutional framework, as well as authorities and duties of institutions, the chairman of the council and the CEO.

It is expected that the new regulation will help enhance involvement of residents in the work of municipal councils, improve mutual cooperation, as well as clarify relations between municipalities and state institutions.

To promote residents’ involvement in the work of municipal councils and decision-making processes, it is planned to allow the creation of councils of residents. These will be collective advisory institutions. Their duties will include representation of residents’ interests in municipal councils. Municipal councils will be able to finance residents’ involvement using a special budget. Residents will be able to dictate the use of funding on their own.