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The Upper House Committee on Labor and Social Policies unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would, for the first time, give corporate status to volunteer groups and other citizens’ groups by recognizing them as official nonprofit organizations.

The bill, sponsored by legislators rather than the Cabinet, was conceived when volunteer groups emerged to help relief efforts after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995. It is expected to pass the full chamber today. It will then be sent back to the Lower House for approval of revisions, and is expected to be enacted before the current Diet session ends in June.

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