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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.
A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions.
Authority is the right to exercise power, which can be formalized by a state and exercised by way of judges, appointed executives of government, or the ecclesiastical or priestly appointed representatives of a God or other deities.
Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.
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.
A budget is a financial plan for a defined period, often one year. It may also include planned sales volumes and revenues, resource quantities, costs and expenses, assets, liabilities and cash flows. Companies, governments, families and other organizations use it to express strategic plans of activities or events in measurable terms.
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.
A legislator is a person who writes and passes laws, especially someone who is a member of a legislature. Legislators are usually politicians and are often elected by the people of the state. Legislatures may be supra-national, national, regional, or local.
Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association.
An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy has operated since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.
Names for national legislatures include "parliament", "congress", "diet", and "assembly", depending on country.
In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries.
A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties or other groups. The term, originally denoting a parley during battle in the Late Middle Ages, is derived from the Latin congressus.
In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries. Modern usage mainly relates to the National Diet of Japan, or the German Bundestag, the Federal Diet.
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.
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies and other deliberative assemblies.
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group. According to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, the "requirement for a quorum is protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons."
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).
A committee is a body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly. Usually, the assembly sends matters into a committee as a way to explore them more fully than would be possible if the assembly itself were considering them. Committees may have different functions and their type of work differ depending on the type of the organization and its needs.
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.
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.
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.
Legislatures will sometimes delegate their legislative power to administrative or executive agencies.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate, so-called as an assembly of the senior and therefore allegedly wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. Thus, the literal meaning of the word "senate" is Assembly of Elders.
A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the voters to a parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title. Member of Congress is an equivalent term in other jurisdictions.
A parliamentary system is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typically a parliament, and is also held accountable to that parliament. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature.
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.
In government, unicameralism 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.
A presidential system is a democratic and republican system of government where a head of government leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of state, which is called president.
The Congress of the Philippines, is the national legislature of the Philippines. It is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate, and the House of Representatives, although colloquially, the term "congress" commonly refers to just the latter.
Tricameralism is the practice of having three legislative or parliamentary chambers. It is contrasted with unicameralism and bicameralism, both of which are far more common.
The National Assembly of Quebec is the legislative body of the province of Quebec in Canada. Legislators are called MNAs. The Queen in Right of Quebec, represented by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec and the National Assembly compose the Legislature of Quebec, which operates in a fashion similar to those of other Westminster-style parliamentary systems.
The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the colonial assembly, in addition to making laws, sat as a judicial court of appeals. Before the adoption of the state constitution in 1780, it was called the Great and General Court, but the official title was shortened by John Adams, author of the state constitution. It is a bicameral body. The upper house is the Massachusetts Senate which is composed of 40 members. The lower body, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, has 160 members. It meets in the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in Boston.
An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. Examples of upper houses in countries include the Australian Senate, Brazil's Senado Federal, the Canadian Senate, France's Sénat, Germany's Bundesrat, India's Rajya Sabha, Ireland's Seanad, Malaysia's Dewan Negara, the Netherlands' Eerste Kamer, Pakistan's Senate of Pakistan, Russia's Federation Council, Switzerland's Council of States, United Kingdom's House of Lords and the United States Senate.
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.
The Maryland Senate, sometimes referred to as the Maryland State Senate, is the upper house of the General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland. Composed of 47 senators elected from an equal number of constituent single-member districts, the Senate is responsible, along with the Maryland House of Delegates, for passage of laws in Maryland, and for confirming executive appointments made by the Governor of Maryland.
The Parliament of New South Wales is a bicameral legislature in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), consisting of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and the New South Wales Legislative Council. Each house is directly elected by the people of New South Wales at elections held approximately every four years. The Parliament derives its authority from the Queen of Australia, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor of New South Wales, who chairs the Executive Council of New South Wales. The parliament shares law making powers with the Australian Federal Parliament. The New South Wales Parliament follows the Westminster parliamentary traditions of dress, Green–Red chamber colours and protocol.
A legislative chamber or house is a deliberative assembly within a legislature which generally meets and votes separately from the legislature's other chambers. Legislatures are usually unicameral, consisting of only one chamber, or bicameral, consisting of two, but there are rare examples of tricameral and tetracameral legislatures.
The Congress of the Republic of Peru is the unicameral body that assumes legislative power in Peru. The congress consists of 130 members (congresistas), who are elected for five-year periods in office on a proportional representation basis.
The unicameral National Assembly is Niger's sole legislative body. The National Assembly may propose laws and is required to approve all legislation.
The Philippine Legislature was the legislature of the Philippines from 1907 to 1935, during the American colonial period, and predecessor of the current Congress of the Philippines. It was bicameral and the legislative branch of the Insular Government.
In contrast to unicameralism, multicameralism is the condition in which a legislature is divided into several deliberative assemblies, which are commonly called "chambers" or "houses". This can include bicameralism with two chambers, tricameralism with three, tetracameralism with four branches, or a system with any amount more. The word "multicameral" can also relate in other ways to its literal meaning of "many chambered" with use in science or biology.