The last plenary session of the year in the Andalusian Parliament seemed like the last plenary session of the legislature. Charged with static electricity among their lordships, with high-voltage speeches, accusations and disqualifications between members of the Government of PP and Ciudadanos and opposition groups. And with President Juan Manuel Moreno, in a solemn tone, issuing continuous warnings of the consequences of a “parliamentary blockade” that refers, time and again, to the specter of the electoral advance.
It gave the feeling that something big was about to fall to the ground: it could be the decree-law of administrative simplification, which was voted in plenary, and on which the Government of Moreno has deposited the responsibility, nothing less, than ” transform the Andalusian production system “. Or it could be the legislature itself, which finally succumbs to that electoral advance vaunted by all for months. Or it could just be the Christmas Lottery Jackpot and the throes of a difficult session, with a handful of MPs absent for testing positive for Covid. Outside the hemicycle, a huge storm and the children of San Ildefonso singing the draw balls.
The day started at 12 noon with the control session of the Andalusian president and ended nine hours later, when Parliament validated the ‘super decree’ administrative simplification law, which changes 80 laws at a stroke, with the votes of PP, Cs and Vox, and the rejection of PSOE, United We Can and the non-attached deputies. No sign of “Vox-PSOE clamp”. No sign of a parliamentary blockade. The last plenary session of the year, the one that was to approve the Andalusian Budgets for 2022, condensed a tight legislative agenda: three decree laws and two laws. Moreno achieved the support of the opposition to all, either with the vote of the left groups, or with the vote of Vox: “Today we are not a pincer, today we are unmissable,” ironized the deputy of the ultra-right group, Alejandro Hernández.
“The responsibility of Vox”
El Gordo de la Lotería was sung at 12.12 hours – it left 35.3 million euros sprinkled by Andalusia – and the Fat politician Vox deputy Angela Mulas sang it from the rostrum, after 4:00 p.m., when she confirmed that her group was going to support the simplification decree law. It ended there with the suspense of the day, which in the morning sounded like the end of the cycle, a story of the hasty dissolution of the Chamber and the calling of elections ahead of schedule [junio u octubre de 2022].
Moreno had repeated four times that of the parliamentary blockade, of the paralysis of the Andalusian economy attributable to an “irresponsible opposition.” “Are the groups in this Chamber here so that Andalusia, its productive sectors, continue to advance. Or are we for the blockade? That is the question. When you come to Parliament, you have a responsibility with the Andalusian people,” he warned, solemnly, President. But the debate over the decree hadn’t even started. The parties that support the Andalusian Government -PP and Cs- and Moreno himself used their interventions in the control session, in the morning, to anticipate the afternoon vote, putting pressure on the opposition, especially Vox, in case he thought knock down the super decree.
At that time, due to many calls that were made to find out what Vox would do – he contacted the national leadership in Madrid – the question was still in the air. “They tell us yes and after a while they tell us no,” the members of the Executive explained in the corridors. 24 hours earlier, the Vox deputy in Congress and potential candidate for Andalusian women, Macarena Olona, had announced in Madrid the complaint of her party before the Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia against the Covid passport authorized by the Board.
The uncertainty had been noticed in the morning in the face-to-face between Moreno and the parliamentary spokesman for the extreme right, Manuel Gavira, whom Moreno reproached for his criticism invading his personal terrain. “He told me today that I have no shame, and on social networks they tell me worse things. Be careful with the shortcuts you are taking,” he warned, about a hypothetical vote similar to that of the left. Minutes earlier, the Minister of the Presidency, Elías Bendodo, had approached Gavira’s seat and had a talk with him prior to the control session. The Board has drawn up this decree-law hand in hand with the main productive sectors -businessmen, builders, industrialists, merchants- and they have mediated to make it go ahead. “You have used business organizations to your advantage. We have gotten the message,” Gavira snapped at Moreno, with a cryptic message that would be understood hours later.
The administrative simplification decree law was renamed by Bendodo as “the decree of common sense”. The norm changes at a stroke 80 norms of the Andalusian legal system in 33 public policies, practically in all areas of Government: urban planning, environment, tourism, education, agriculture, fishing, historical heritage, housing, ports, energy, European funds, health, professional associations, foundations, transport. The objective is to eliminate 330 administrative procedures that, according to the Board and the businessmen who will benefit from the decree, “hinder” foreign investment, the creation of companies and the development of projects. But the Andalusian Executive has been much more ambitious in its approach: “We are going to change the regulatory culture of the Public Administration, deepen a liberal economy and transform the Andalusian production model.”
The approach of PP, Cs and Vox is that the Administration will be more agile and the legal framework simpler, and that the process must be the decree-law procedure -the ultra-fast route, without public exposure or prior inspection by the Chamber- for ” take advantage of the Next Generation European funds as soon as possible, which oblige the ministries to develop projects in a short time to spend the millions that arrive, “they explain from San Telmo.
All the opposition spokespersons, including Vox, reproached the Andalusian Executive for having used the figure of the decree law to urgently process a rule that suddenly modifies 80 measures of the legal system, something that the Spanish Ombudsman already questioned in a report when the first simplification decree law was approved in March 2020. “Why so fast and why all the changes at once, why are you presenting it to us as an urgent question?” Mulas asked from the rostrum, answering that Moreno’s purpose was “to leave the Junta ironed and put on a medal before the Andalusian elections.”
That the vote on the decree law was the key point of the session is demonstrated by the incident that took place during the speech of the Vox spokesperson, as soon as the debate started. The first vice president of the Chamber, the popular Esperanza Oña, mistakenly left the button to call the vote pressed, a bell that rings outside the chamber and that warns the honorable Members that the Plenary is about to vote. Many deputies who were in the corridors rushed in, bewildered, and Oña had to explain that it had been a false alarm.
The reduction of bureaucratic obstacles and the withdrawal of mandatory reports from the Board -in environmental and urban matters- is part of the electoral program of Vox. It is also a point of his agreement with the PP for the investiture of Moreno and of the pact signed later to guarantee the stability of the legislature. It was difficult to think that they would vote against, however, those of Santiago Abascal have been demanding for months the dissolution of Parliament and the immediate calling of elections. They have never been closer to achieving it than this Wednesday. If the decree law had been overturned, given the high political expectations where the Andalusian president had placed it, the consequences could have been precipitated. In the end, Vox has once again used the key to the legislature to allow Moreno to comply with his calendar and rush the mandate until June or October.
Of course, Mulas wrapped his “affirmative vote for responsibility” with a resounding criticism of the State of Autonomies. “This decree-law demonstrates how unnecessary the autonomous state is: permits are required from the Board that the central government already requests, administrative duplicity, inefficiency, that the legal order is not met and that bureaucratic burdens are excessive,” he stressed. .
The spokeswoman for United We Can, Inmaculada Nieto, opened the turn of the speeches against, accusing Bendodo of “lying.” “Why do you say that the social agents are in favor of this decree law? Or that everyone has been talked to. You lie. That is objectively false,” he warned. The left-wing coalition, like the PSOE, has already voted against the two previous simplification law decrees, the one approved in March 2020, which modified 28 laws, and the one approved in February 2021, which regulates the creation of major strategic projects for the Board.
Nieto put the accent on demonstrating that this norm is neither innocuous nor “apolitical nor devoid of ideology”, as the Andalusian president likes to insist. “Isn’t the liberalization of business hours political? Won’t that have an effect for the small and medium-sized merchant? Even the Archbishopric of Seville has told you where you are going with that. And is it not political to open private investment to service Andalusian fire fighting [Infoca]? “He asked. The IU deputy also complained about the speed with which the Government has processed this law, so loaded with regulatory changes, without public exposure or prior inspection in Parliament.
Tougher was the PSOE deputy, Mario Jiménez, who started his speech asking that the super decree be processed as a bill, so that opposition groups and social agents could intervene in its drafting, and ended up shouting for the resignation of the counselor of the Presidency. “Someone must resign here. Let Bendodo resign, what a lie!” He said. Jiménez called the norm “cacicada” because there was no “social dialogue” or “institutional dialogue”, alluding to the mayors, who will be affected by up to 20 municipal laws.
The socialist read a paragraph of the explanatory memorandum of the decree law that warns, contrary to what the Junta publicly defends, that the Andalusian economy will grow below the national average in 2022. “The cheap propaganda is over. Only for I would approve this paragraph because it unmasks his government, “he said.
The plenary session quieted down when Vox confirmed its support for the super decree. Parliament approved the three law decrees – administrative simplification; aid to tourism, the educational and cultural field against Covid; and urgent measures within the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan – and two other laws of the Government, one of them unanimously: the one that regulates guide dogs for visually impaired people. The other was the Law on Public Rates and Prices of the Board, which plans to increase tax revenues for Andalusia by 15%.
It is a law that eliminates obsolete taxes – still quantified in pesetas – and incorporates tax benefits and other tax figures, for example, on the use of cultural spaces of the Board, on “clinical trials and medical examinations” or for environmental protection. The Board had negotiated with the PSOE its support -admitting 20 of its 30 amendments-, but finally the Socialists have withdrawn, when the Ministry of Finance has accepted some amendments to Vox that they considered “inadmissible”: in the list of tax benefits, the text distinguishes between “gender violence and domestic violence”. This last term, which appears in the Penal Code, is considered by the left as outdated and considers it to be an assignment “to the denial of the extreme right.”