Legislature

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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.

Laws enacted by legislatures are known as 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 almost always elected.

Members[edit]

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 legislature can also be described as a "seat", as, for, example, in the phrases "safe seat" and "marginal seat".

Terminology[edit]

In parliamentary systems of government, the executive is responsible to the legislature which may remove it with a vote of no confidence. 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.[1]

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

Institutional framework[edit]

A legislature creates a complex interaction between individual members, political parties, committees, rules of parliamentary procedure, and informal norms.

Chambers[edit]

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.

In bicameral legislatures, one chamber is usually considered the upper house, which 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 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 Caucasian-minority rule in South Africa. Tetracameral legislatures no longer exist, but they were previously used in Scandinavia.

Size[edit]

Legislatures vary widely in their size. Among national legislatures, China's National People's Congress is the largest with 2 987 members, while Vatican City's Pontifical Commission is the smallest with 7. Neither legislature is democratically elected, and the National People's Congress has little independent power.

Legislative size is a tradeoff 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 correspond 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.[2]

List of Legislatures[edit]

Some legislatures are known simply as the Legislature, including:

Current[edit]

National[edit]

Country Body Type
 Liberia Legislature of Liberia Bicameral
 Marshall Islands Legislature of the Marshall Islands Unicameral
 South Sudan National Legislature Bicameral
 Sudan National Legislature Bicameral

Sub-national[edit]

Country Region Body Type
 India Maharashtra Maharashtra Legislature Bicameral
 India Bihar Bihar Legislature Bicameral
 India Jammu and Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir Legislature Bicameral
 India Karnataka Karnataka Legislature Bicameral
 India Kerala Kerala Legislature Unicameral
 India Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu Legislature Unicameral
 India Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Legislature Bicameral
 South Africa Eastern Cape Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa Free State Free State Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa Gauteng Gauteng Provincial Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa KwaZulu-Natal KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa Limpopo Limpopo Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa Mpumalanga Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa North West North West Provincial Legislature Unicameral
 South Africa Northern Cape Northern Cape Provincial Legislature Unicameral
 United States Alabama Alabama Legislature Bicameral
 United States Alaska Alaska Legislature Bicameral
 United States Arizona Arizona State Legislature Bicameral
 United States California California State Legislature Bicameral
 United States Florida Florida Legislature Bicameral
 United States Hawaii Hawaii State Legislature Bicameral
 United States Idaho Idaho Legislature Bicameral
 United States Kansas Kansas Legislature Bicameral
 United States Louisiana Louisiana State Legislature Bicameral
 United States Maine Maine Legislature Bicameral
 United States Michigan Michigan Legislature Bicameral
 United States Minnesota Minnesota Legislature Bicameral
 United States Mississippi Mississippi Legislature Bicameral
 United States Montana Montana Legislature Bicameral
 United States Nebraska Nebraska Legislature Unicameral
 United States Nevada Nevada Legislature Bicameral
 United States New Jersey New Jersey Legislature Bicameral
 United States New Mexico New Mexico Legislature Bicameral
 United States New York New York State Legislature Bicameral
 United States Oklahoma Oklahoma Legislature Bicameral
 United States South Dakota South Dakota Legislature Bicameral
 United States Texas Texas Legislature Bicameral
 United States Utah Utah State Legislature Bicameral
 United States Washington Washington State Legislature Bicameral
 United States West Virginia West Virginia Legislature Bicameral
 United States Wisconsin Wisconsin Legislature Bicameral
 United States Wyoming Wyoming Legislature Bicameral
 United States Guam Legislature of Guam Unicameral
 United States Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature Bicameral
 United States U.S. Virgin Islands Legislature of the Virgin Islands Unicameral

Defunct[edit]

National[edit]

Country Body Type
 Burma Legislature Bicameral
 British Guiana Legislature Bicameral
 Kingdom of Hawaii Legislature of the Kingdom of Hawaii Bicameral/unicameral
   Nepal Interim legislature of Nepal Unicameral
 Philippines Philippine Legislature Bicameral

See also[edit]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ "Governing Systems and Executive-Legislative Relations (Presidential, Parliamentary and Hybrid Systems)". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  2. ^ Frederick, Brian (December 2009). "Not Quite a Full House: The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives". Bridgewater Review. Retrieved 2016-05-15.