Legislature

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

Laws enacted by legislatures are known as primary legislation. Legislatures observe and steer governing actions and usually have exclusive authority to amend the budget or budgets involved in the process.

The members of a legislature are called legislators. In a democracy, legislators are most commonly popularly elected, although indirect election and appointment by the executive are also used, particularly for bicameral legislatures featuring an upper chamber.

Terminology

Legislation Terminology Map
Map showing the terminology for each country's national legislature

Names for national legislatures include "parliament", "congress", "diet", and "assembly", depending on country.

Internal organization

Each chamber of the legislature consists of a number of legislators who use some form of parliamentary procedure to debate political issues and vote on proposed legislation. There must be a certain number of legislators present to carry out these activities; this is called a quorum.

Some of the responsibilities of a legislature, such as giving first consideration to newly proposed legislation, are usually delegated to committees made up of a few of the members of the chamber(s).

The members of a legislature usually represent different political parties; the members from each party generally meet as a caucus to organize their internal affairs.

Power

Legislatures vary widely in the amount of political power they wield, compared to other political players such as judiciaries, militaries, and executives. In 2009, political scientists M. Steven Fish and Matthew Kroenig constructed a Parliamentary Powers Index in an attempt to quantify the different degrees of power among national legislatures. The German Bundestag, the Italian Parliament, and the Mongolian State Great Khural tied for most powerful, while Myanmar's House of Representatives and Somalia's Transitional Federal Assembly (since replaced by the Federal Parliament of Somalia) tied for least powerful.[1]

Some political systems follow the principle of legislative supremacy, which holds that the legislature is the supreme branch of government and cannot be bound by other institutions, such as the judicial branch or a written constitution. Such a system renders the legislature more powerful.

In parliamentary and semi-presidential systems of government, the executive is responsible to the legislature, which may remove it with a vote of no confidence. On the other hand, according to the separation of powers doctrine, the legislature in a presidential system is considered an independent and coequal branch of government along with both the judiciary and the executive.[2]

Legislatures will sometimes delegate their legislative power to administrative or executive agencies.[3]

Members

Legislatures are made up of individual members, known as legislators, who vote on proposed laws. A legislature usually contains a fixed number of legislators; because legislatures usually meet in a specific room filled with seats for the legislators, this is often described as the number of "seats" it contains. For example, a legislature that has 100 "seats" has 100 members. By extension, an electoral district that elects a single legislator can also be described as a "seat", as, for, example, in the phrases "safe seat" and "marginal seat".

Chambers

Vista panorámica del Hemiciclo de sesiones del Congreso del Peru
The Congress of the Republic of Peru, the country's national legislature, meets in the Legislative Palace in 2010

A legislature may debate and vote upon bills as a single unit, or it may be composed of multiple separate assemblies, called by various names including legislative chambers, debate chambers, and houses, which debate and vote separately and have distinct powers. A legislature which operates as a single unit is unicameral, one divided into two chambers is bicameral, and one divided into three chambers is tricameral.

House of Commons Chamber 1
The British House of Commons, its lower house

In bicameral legislatures, one chamber is usually considered the upper house, while the other is considered the lower house. The two types are not rigidly different, but members of upper houses tend to be indirectly elected or appointed rather than directly elected, tend to be allocated by administrative divisions rather than by population, and tend to have longer terms than members of the lower house. In some systems, particularly parliamentary systems, the upper house has less power and tends to have a more advisory role, but in others, particularly presidential systems, the upper house has equal or even greater power.

Deutscher Bundestag Plenarsaal Seitenansicht
The German Bundestag, its theoretical lower house

In federations, the upper house typically represents the federation's component states. This is a case with the supranational legislature of the European Union. The upper house may either contain the delegates of state governments – as in the European Union and in Germany and, before 1913, in the United States – or be elected according to a formula that grants equal representation to states with smaller populations, as is the case in Australia and the United States since 1913.

Senate panorama
The Australian Senate, its upper house

Tricameral legislatures are rare; the Massachusetts Governor's Council still exists, but the most recent national example existed in the waning years of White-minority rule in South Africa. Tetracameral legislatures no longer exist, but they were previously used in Scandinavia.

Size

Legislatures vary widely in their size. Among national legislatures, China's National People's Congress is the largest with 2 980 members, while Vatican City's Pontifical Commission is the smallest with 7. Neither legislature is democratically elected: the National People's Congress is indirectly elected, but nonetheless the National People's Congress has little independent power.

Legislature size is a trade off between efficiency and representation; the smaller the legislature, the more efficiently it can operate, but the larger the legislature, the better it can represent the political diversity of its constituents. Comparative analysis of national legislatures has found that size of a country's lower house tends to be proportional to the cube root of its population; that is, the size of the lower house tends to increase along with population, but much more slowly.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ Fish, M. Steven; Kroenig, Matthew (2009). The handbook of national legislatures: a global survey. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-51466-8.
  2. ^ "Governing Systems and Executive-Legislative Relations (Presidential, Parliamentary and Hybrid Systems)". United Nations Development Programme. Archived from the original on 2008-10-17. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  3. ^ Schoenbrod, David (2008). "Delegation". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 117–18. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n74. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024.
  4. ^ Frederick, Brian (December 2009). "Not Quite a Full House: The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives". Bridgewater Review. Retrieved 2016-05-15.

Further reading

Bicameralism

A bicameral legislature divides the legislators into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.Often, the members of the two chambers are elected or selected by different methods, which vary from country to country. This can often lead to the two chambers having very different compositions of members.

Enactment of primary legislation often requires a concurrent majority – the approval of a majority of members in each of the chambers of the legislature. When this is the case, the legislature may be called an example of perfect bicameralism. However, in many Westminster system parliaments, the house to which the executive is responsible can overrule the other house and may be regarded as an example of imperfect bicameralism. Some legislatures lie in between these two positions, with one house only able to overrule the other under certain circumstances.

Bill (law)

A bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act of the legislature, or a statute. Bills are introduced in the legislature and are discussed, debated and voted upon.

California State Legislature

The California State Legislature is a bicameral legislature consisting of a lower house, the California State Assembly, with 80 members; and an upper house, the California State Senate, with 40 members. Both houses of the Legislature convene at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The California State Legislature is one of just ten full-time state legislatures in the United States.The Democratic Party currently holds supermajorities in both houses of the California State Legislature. The Assembly consists of 61 Democrats and 19 Republicans, while the Senate is composed of 28 Democrats and 10 Republicans, with two vacancies. Except for a brief period from 1995 to 1996, the Assembly has been in Democratic hands since the 1970 election. The Senate, meanwhile, has been under continuous Democratic control since 1970.

Executive (government)

The executive is the organ exercising authority in and holding responsibility for the governance of a state. The executive executes and enforces law.

In political systems based on the principle of separation of powers, authority is distributed among several branches (executive, legislative, judicial)—an attempt to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people. In such a system, the executive does not pass laws (the role of the legislature) or interpret them (the role of the judiciary). Instead, the executive enforces the law as written by the legislature and interpreted by the judiciary. The executive can be the source of certain types of law, such as a decree or executive order. Executive bureaucracies are commonly the source of regulations.

In the Westminster political system, the principle of separation of powers is not as entrenched. Members of the executive, called ministers, are also members of the legislature, and hence play an important part in both the writing and enforcing of law.

In this context, the executive consists of a leader(s) of an office or multiple offices. Specifically, the top leadership roles of the executive branch may include:

head of state – often the supreme leader, the president or monarch, the chief public representative and living symbol of national unity.

head of government – often the de facto leader, prime minister, overseeing the administration of all affairs of state.

defence minister – overseeing the armed forces, determining military policy and managing external safety.

interior minister – overseeing the police forces, enforcing the law and managing internal safety.

foreign minister – overseeing the diplomatic service, determining foreign policy and managing foreign relations.

finance minister – overseeing the treasury, determining fiscal policy and managing national budget.

justice minister – overseeing criminal prosecutions, corrections, enforcement of court orders.In a presidential system, the leader of the executive is both the head of state and head of government. In a parliamentary system, a cabinet minister responsible to the legislature is the head of government, while the head of state is usually a largely ceremonial monarch or president.

Legislative Assembly of Alberta

The Legislative Assembly of Alberta is one of two components of the Legislature of Alberta, the other being Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, represented by the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. The Alberta legislature meets in the Alberta Legislature Building in the provincial capital, Edmonton. The Legislative Assembly consists of 87 members, elected first past the post from single-member electoral districts.The maximum period between general elections of the assembly, as set by the country's Constitution, is five years, but the premier controls the date of election and usually selects a date in the fourth or fifth year after the preceding election. Since 2011, Alberta has fixed election date legislation, fixing the election to a date between March 1 and May 31 in the fourth calendar year following the preceding election. Alberta has never had a minority government, so an election as a result of a vote of no confidence has never occurred.

To be a candidate for election to the assembly, a person must be a Canadian citizen older than 18 who has lived in Alberta for at least six months before the election. Senators, senators in waiting, members of the House of Commons, and criminal inmates are ineligible.The current and 29th Alberta Legislative Assembly was elected on May 5, 2015.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario (French: Assemblée législative de l'Ontario) is one of two components of the Legislature of Ontario (also known as the Parliament of Ontario), the other being the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The Legislative Assembly is the second largest Canadian provincial deliberative assembly by number of members after the National Assembly of Quebec. The Assembly meets at the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park in the provincial capital of Toronto.

As at the federal level in Canada, Ontario uses a Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which members are elected to the Legislative Assembly through general elections, from which the Premier of Ontario and Executive Council of Ontario are appointed based on majority support. The premier is Ontario's head of government, while the Lieutenant Governor, as representative of the Queen, acts as head of state. The largest party not forming the government is known as the Official Opposition, its leader being recognized as Leader of the Opposition by the Speaker.

The Ontario Legislature is sometimes referred to as the "Ontario Provincial Parliament". Members of the assembly refer to themselves as "Members of the Provincial Parliament" (MPPs) as opposed to "Members of the Legislative Assembly" (MLAs) as in many other provinces. Ontario is the only province to do so, in accordance with a resolution passed in the Assembly on April 7, 1938. However, the Legislative Assembly Act refers only to "members of the Assembly".

The current assembly was elected on June 7, 2018, as part of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario.

Owing to the location of the Legislative Building on the grounds of Queen's Park, the metonym "Queen's Park" is often used to refer to both the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly.

Louisiana State Legislature

The Louisiana State Legislature (French: Législature d'État de Louisiane) is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is a bicameral body, comprising the lower house, the Louisiana House of Representatives with 105 representatives, and the upper house, the Louisiana Senate with 39 senators. Members of both houses are elected from single-member constituencies.

The State Legislature meets in the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

Maharashtra Legislative Assembly

The Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha or the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly is the lower house of the legislature of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is situated in the Nariman Point area of South Mumbai in the capital Mumbai. Presently, 288 members of the Legislative Assembly are directly elected from the single-seat constituencies and one member is nominated. The members of the upper house, the Maharashtra Vidhan Parishad (the legislative council) are indirectly elected through an electoral college.

Member of the Legislative Assembly (India)

A Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) is a representative elected by the voters of an electoral district (constituency) to the legislature of the State government in the Indian system of government. From each constituency, the people elect one representative who then becomes a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Each state has between seven and nine MLAs for every Member of Parliament (MP) that it has in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's bicameral parliament. There are also members in two unicameral legislatures in Union Territories: the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Puducherry Legislative Assembly.

Nebraska Legislature

The Nebraska Legislature (also called the Unicameral) is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska. Its members are "senators." The legislature is officially unicameral and nonpartisan, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states; no other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body, but partisanship does occur in a de facto fashion. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

New Jersey Legislature

The New Jersey Legislature is the legislative branch of the government of the U.S. state of New Jersey. In its current form, as defined by the New Jersey Constitution of 1947, the Legislature consists of two houses: the General Assembly and the Senate. The Legislature meets in the New Jersey State House, in the state capital of Trenton. Democrats currently hold super majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

New York State Legislature

The New York State Legislature consists of the two houses that act as the state legislature of the U.S. state of New York. The New York Constitution does not designate an official term for the two houses together. It says only that "legislative power is vested in the senate and assembly." The session laws are published in the official Laws of New York. The permanent laws of a general nature are codified in the Consolidated Laws of New York. The legislature is seated at the New York State Capitol in Albany.

Parliament of India

The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India. It is a bicameral legislature composed of the President of India and the two houses: the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The President in his role as head of legislature has full powers to summon and prorogue either house of Parliament or to dissolve Lok Sabha. The president can exercise these powers only upon the advice of the Prime Minister and his Union Council of Ministers.

Those elected or nominated (by the President) to either house of Parliament are referred to as Members of Parliament (MP). The Members of Parliament, Lok Sabha are directly elected by the Indian public voting in Single-member districts and the Members of Parliament, Rajya Sabha are elected by the members of all State Legislative Assembly by proportional representation. The Parliament has a sanctioned strength of 545 in Lok Sabha including the 2 nominees from the Anglo-Indian Community by the President, and 245 in Rajya Sabha including the 12 nominees from the expertise of different fields of science, culture, art and history. The Parliament meets at Sansad Bhavan in New Delhi.

Pennsylvania General Assembly

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is the legislature of the U.S. commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The legislature convenes in the State Capitol building in Harrisburg. In colonial times (1682–1776), the legislature was known as the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and was unicameral. Since the Constitution of 1776, the legislature has been known as the General Assembly. The General Assembly became a bicameral legislature in 1791.

State legislature (United States)

A state legislature in the United States is the legislative body of any of the 50 U.S. states. The formal name varies from state to state. In 25 states, the legislature is simply called the Legislature, or the State Legislature, while in 19 states, the legislature is called the General Assembly. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the legislature is called the General Court, while North Dakota and Oregon designate the legislature the Legislative Assembly.

Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly

The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly alone has powers to legislate laws covering state subjects in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It has a strength of 235 members of whom 234 are democratically elected using the First-past-the-post system. The remaining member is nominated as a representative of the Anglo-Indian community. The presiding officer of the Assembly is called the Speaker. The term of the Assembly is five years unless it is dissolved earlier.

Since Tamil Nadu has a unicameral legislature, the terms Tamil Nadu Legislature and Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly are almost synonymous and are often confused. However they are not one and the same. The Tamil Nadu Legislature is the legislative body while the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly is a part of it. The Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, along with the Governor of Tamil Nadu, constitutes the Tamil Nadu Legislature.

The present State of Tamil Nadu is a residuary part of the erstwhile Madras Presidency and was formerly known as Madras State. The first legislature of any sort for the Presidency was the Madras Legislative Council which was set up as a non-representative advisory body in 1861. In 1919, direct elections were introduced with the introduction of Diarchy under the Government of India Act of 1919. Between 1920–1937, the Legislative Council was a unicameral legislature for the Madras Presidency. The Government of India Act of 1935 abolished dyarchy and created a bicameral legislature in the Madras Presidency. The Legislative Assembly became the Lower House of the Presidency.

After the Republic of India was established in 1950, the Madras Presidency became the Madras State and the bicameral setup continued. The Madras State's assembly strength was 375 and the first assembly was constituted in 1952. The current state was formed in 1956 after the reorganisation of states and strength of the assembly was reduced to 206. Its strength was increased to the present 235 in 1965. Madras State was renamed as Tamil Nadu in 1969 and subsequently the assembly came to be called as "Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly". The Legislative Council was abolished in 1986, making the legislature a unicameral body and the assembly its sole chamber.

The present Fifteenth Legislative Assembly was constituted in 2016. It was constituted after the 2016 assembly election, which resulted in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led front winning and forming the government. The next election will take place when its five years term ends in 2021 may.

Texas Legislature

The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The state legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin. It is a powerful arm of the Texas government not only because of its power of the purse to control and direct the activities of state government and the strong constitutional connections between it and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, but also due to Texas's plural executive.

The Legislature is the constitutional successor of the Congress of the Republic of Texas since Texas's 1845 entrance into the Union. The Legislature held its first regular session from February 16 to May 13, 1846.

Unicameralism

In government, unicameralism (Latin uni, one + camera, chamber) is the practice of having one legislative or parliamentary chamber. Thus, a unicameral parliament or unicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of one chamber or house.

Washington State Legislature

The Washington State Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Washington. It is a bipartisan, bicameral body, composed of the lower Washington House of Representatives, composed of 98 Representatives, and the upper Washington State Senate, with 49 Senators plus the Lieutenant Governor acting as President. The state is divided into 49 legislative districts, each of which elect one senator and two representatives.

The State Legislature meets in the Legislative Building at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia.

As of January 2019, Democrats control both houses of the Washington State Legislature. Democrats hold a 57-41 majority in the House of Representatives and a 28-21 majority in the Senate, with one "Independent Democrat" senator caucusing with the Republicans.

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