Such regulation cannot be recognized as logical, because the main powers in the sphere of the regulation of the use of land have been consolidated to the bodies of local self government of settlements. Thereby, at the level of settlements, in re spect of those lands the State ownership of which has not been divided, there should be established rules for the use of lands and their construction develop ment, as well as construction permits should be issued, while the disposal of these lands (that is, the allocation of plots of land) is the prerogative of a municipal raion.
Thus, there emerge additional grounds for conflict between two levels of authority within local self government: the bodies of local self government of settlements may refuse to issue construction permits in respect of a plot of land allotted by the raion, simple because they have taken no part in related decision making. Besides, the costs being borne by the recipient of a plot of land become higher, because he has to effectuate coordination at two administrative levels instead of just one.
By the same normative act it was established that the plots of land in those settlements that are administrative centers or capitals of RF subjects should be disposed of by the bodies of local self government of the said settlements, if by the laws of the corresponding RF subjects it is not established that the disposal of those plots of land should be carried out by the executive bodies of state authority of RF subjects. This provision appears to be rather bizarre, because the situation when a settlement and not a city okrug is the capital of a Federation’s subject can be regarded as a rare exception. This can be observed only in a few autonomous city okrugs – in particular, Nenets AO, Agin Buriat AO, and Ust’ Ordynskii Buriatskii AO. In this connection it is unclear why it has become necessary to separately Section Monetary and budgetary spheres regulate this specific instance. However, this is an illustration of the general trend that characterizes nearly every initiative aiming at introducing changes into the normative – legal regulation of local self government in 2006 – namely, the inten tion to shift the balance of power between the bodies of local self government lo cated in regional capitals and the bodies of state authority of the Federation’s sub jects in favor of the latter.
More obviously this trend has revealed itself in the draft Federal Law “On making amendments to Article 26і of the Federal Law ‘On the general principles of the organization of the legislative (representative) and executive bodies of state au thority of subjects of the Russian Federation’ and to Article 75 of the Federal Law ‘On the general principles of the organization of local self government in the Rus sian Federation’”, submitted to the State Duma in late April 2006 by deputies V. S.
Mokryi, V. A. Zhidkikh, and A. V. Ogon’kov. Under this draft law, it was intended that subjects of the Federation should be granted the right to temporarily execute some of the powers of the bodies of local self government of those settlements and city okrugs that are administrative centers of the Federation’s subjects, for purposes of ensuring the uniform functioning of their utilities and communications systems and other infrastructure. The draft contained no specific fundamental principles or conditions for temporary regulation of the “life support” systems in big cities at the level of the Federation’s subjects. Up to ten key issues of local importance could be potentially withdrawn from the jurisdiction of big municipal formations, including the organization of the supply of heating, gas, electric power and water; the organi zation of removal and utilization of domestic and industrial waste; the construction and maintenance of motor roads and bridges; the organization of transport ser vices to the population; the establishment of rules for the use of land and its con struction development, and the control over the use of lands. It was suggested that the timelines for the temporary withdrawal of powers and the specific grounds for such actions should be established by laws of the Federation’s subjects.
The draft law stirred strong public response, and opinions in society became divided. The draft law’s critics pointed to its lack of democracy and incompatibility with the RF Constitution and the European Charter of local self government, and to local self government becoming discredited in the eyes of the population as a re sult of its adoption. In this form, the draft law could not even find support among all the subjects of the Federation (thus, for example, the Legislative Assembly of Uli anovsk Oblast, in its resolution, declared that “the amendments violate the essence of local self government, the RF Constitution and the European Charter of local self government”). Under the pressure from the public, the State Duma adjourned the consideration of this amendment.
In its stead, however, and under the same number, in October 2006 by a simi lar group of deputies from the faction “United Russia” a somewhat different amendment to Law No 131 FZ was suggested. The draft law put forth by the depu ties envisaged that in administrative centers and capitals of subjects of the Russian Federation local self government may be executed either within the borders of an administrative center or the capitals of a subject of the Russian Federation as a RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN trends and outlooks whole, or in inner urban territories68. In this connection, in both instances to re gional capitals, in fact, the regulation was extended which was envisaged for the inner urban municipal formations of the two cities of federal importance – Moscow and St. Petersburg. In particular, it was suggested that legislation of the Federa tion’s subject should regulate the following issues:
- with due regard to the opinions of the population, to establish and change the borders of inner urban municipal formations, and to effectuate their transforma tions;
- to determine lists of issues of local importance, sources of revenue for local budgets;
- to establish the powers of the bodies of local self government to make deci sions concerning the issues of local importance from the list established by fed eral legislation;
- to establish the composition of municipal property on the basis of the federal composition of property and the regional list of issues of local importance, de termined for the corresponding municipal formations by laws of the Federa tion’s subjects.
Besides, it was suggested that amendments should be made to the RF Budget Code to the effect that to the Federation’s subjects should be consolidated the right to determine the sources of revenue for the budgets of those city okrugs and settlements that have the status of administrative centers, capitals of subjects of the Russian Federation, as well as of the inner urban municipal formations lo cated on their territories, and the list of spending powers and the procedure for their execution.
The emergence of such suggestions is quite logical in terms of the structure of the vertical of power. Since it became clear that within the existing RF Constitu tion it would be impossible to introduce the mechanism of actual appointment of mayors similar to that being executed in respect to governors, another pathway was chosen – that of limiting the independence of elective bodies of local self government in biggest regional centers, which in most cases have the powers to dispose of vast resources, namely, regional capitals69.
At the same time it is obvious that such an initiative, which, similar to the previ ous one, being designed to dramatically shift the balance of powers in favor of the Federation’s subjects and to actually restrict the protection of the rights of local self government (ensured by federal legislation) in regional capitals, was met with indignant response of the municipal community. Negative opinions were voiced not only domestically, but also by international organizations. As a result, the amend ment was not considered by the State Dume, and the ultimate fate of this initiative is still unclear.
Accordingly, it was suggested that legislation should reflect the definition of such an inner urban territory as part of the territory of an administrative center or the capitals of a subject of the Russian Federation, within the borders of which local self government is executed by the population directly and (or) through elective bodies of local self government.
Only in two regions – Vologda Oblast and Kemerovo Oblast – the regional capital is not the largest city in their respective territories.
Section Monetary and budgetary spheres The last among the significant legislative acts of 2006, which had to do with local self government, was Federal Law of 29 December 2006, No. 258 FZ, “On making amendments to some legislative acts of the Russian Federation in connec tion with the improvement of the division of powers”. The new law deals mainly with the division of powers between the Federation and subjects of the Federation, al though it does, indeed, also touche upon the activity of bodies of local self government. In respect to the latter, the changes introduced into legislation can be subdivided into two groups: some of them bring order and classification to the changes introduced earlier, while others actually touch upon the sphere of compe tence of bodies of local self government.
These changes consolidate a rather complicated and controversial interpreta tion of the sphere of competence of bodies of local self government, which incor porates the following:
- the settlement of issues of local importance;
- the execution of delegated state powers;
- the participation in the execution of other state powers, if this participation is envisaged by federal laws;
- the settlement of other issues, which are not placed within the sphere of com petence of the bodies of local self government of other municipal formations or bodies of state authority, or not withdrawn from the sphere of their competence by federal laws or laws of subjects of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, in respect to each type of municipal formations, a list of those issues is specified, which do not belong to the category of issues of local im portance, but can be dealt with by bodies of local self government. These issues are very versatile in their nature. Some of them can be treated as non delegated state powers, in the execution of which bodies of local self government may par ticipate, which has become possible after the introduction of amendments into Law No. 131 FZ in late 2005. However, for example, the right to found local museums can hardly be fully compatible with this category, from the point of view of its es sence. One gets the impression that, alongside the evolution of the division of pow ers, there also emerge the foundations for the subdivision of issues of local impor tance into compulsory and voluntary, which has already been practiced for a long time in foreign countries. However, the process itself if rather inconsistent and con troversial.
It should be noted that the new classification of the spheres of competence of municipal formations is not quite compatible with their powers in the financial sphere (Article 86 of the RF Budget Code), because it is not defined precisely to which category of powers belong the rights of bodies of local self government to deal with those issues that are not placed within the category of issues of local im portance.
As for the specific set of issues of local importance, which are placed within the sphere of competence of bodies of local self government but not on the estab lished list, the recognition of the right of the bodies of local self government of set tlements to execute notarial actions in the event of absence of a notary in a settle RUSSIAN ECONOMY IN trends and outlooks ment is of utmost importance70, because otherwise in many instances the popula tion’s access this service would have become more difficult. In order to realize this right, in the Fundamental Legislation of the RF on the notariat some amendments were made, whereby the head of a local administration of a settlement and the specially empowered official of the local self government of a settlement should have the right to execute the following notarial actions:
- to certify wills;
- to certify powers of attorney;
- to take appropriate measures for the protection of bequeathed property and, in an event of necessity, appropriate measures for its management;
- to attest to the correctness of copies and extracts from documents;
- to attest to the authenticity of a signature on a document.
By legislation of the Federation’s subject, this list can be expanded.