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German lower house approves landmark constitutional reform

[JURIST] In a victory for German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official profile in German; BBC profile], a package of constitutional reforms aimed at separating and clarifying the powers of the federal and state governments passed Germany's lower house of parliament in a 428-162 vote Friday, with three lawmakers abstaining. After World War II, Germany's government was organized under an inefficient system of federalism [German Law Journal article] where centralized power was disfavored and each of Germany's 16 states in the Bundesrat [official website] upper house had complete veto power over legislation. The new legislation [JURIST report] would strip veto power from the 16 states and allow the federal government to control environmental and nuclear energy policy in exchange for withdrawing federal influence from issues of education, the judiciary, and localized commerce. In a compromise, the federal government may still fund university-based research projects.

A vote is scheduled for next Friday in the upper house, which is expected to approve the federalism legislation [official backgrounder, in German]. This bill is one of three prongs of Merkel's ambitious reform plan, along with healthcare reform legislation and a plan to reorganize Germany's corporate tax structure to enhance competitiveness. Reuters has more.

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