|Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC), presides over the opening meeting of the eighth session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee in Beijing, capital of China, April 21, 2014. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo)
BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) -- A bimonthly session of China's top legislature opened on Monday as lawmakers looked to amend laws on environmental protection and the government's budget.
Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), presided over the opening meeting of the session, which runs from Monday through Thursday.
Bills on the table include a much-anticipated draft amendment of the environmental protection law, which pledges to hand out heavier punishments to tackle the problem of pollution.
Another key mooted change is an expansion of the range of subjects of public interest litigation on environmental issues. According to the draft amendment, they could include social organizations that have registered with the civil affairs departments of governments at municipal level or above and have been engaged in public litigation on environmental issues for more than five years with a sound reputation.
Lawmakers also deliberated on a draft revision to China's budget law, which pledged to forge a fully regulated and transparent budget system by expanding public access.
The 94-page draft revision, submitted for a third reading, proposes that governments make public their budgetary documents within 20 days after they are approved by corresponding authorities.
Government procurement of goods, projects and services using fiscal funds will also be subject to public disclosure if the bill is passed.
In addition, the top legislature is considering giving a greenlight to bond sales by provincial-level governments under strict conditions.
The draft budget law revision proposes that authorized provincial-level governments will be able to issue bonds within a quota set by the State Council and approved by the NPC or its standing committee.
Money raised by the bond sales could be used to partly finance construction investments that have been included in the provincial-level governments' general public budget plans, it said.
Also on the agenda of this week's NPC Standing Committee session are two draft interpretations concerning China's Criminal Law and the Law of Criminal Procedures, and a draft law on navigation channels.
The draft law laid down requirements for the planning, construction and maintenance of China's navigation channels, and for the construction of waterway-blocking, -crossing and -adjacent architecture.
Construction of waterway-related projects can only be approved after it passes impact assessments by relevant authorities, according to the draft.
Furthermore, lawmakers discussed motions to ratify a "Beijing Treaty" on audiovisual performances signed in June 2012, a treaty on judicial assistance in criminal cases between China and Argentina, and a State Council work report on energy conservation and emission reduction.