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A legislature is a
deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who use parliamentary procedure to make decisions. Etymology In a speech to the electorate at Bristol in 1774, Edmund Burke described the British Parliament as a "delib ...
with the
authority In the fields of sociology and political science, authority is the legitimate power that a person or a group of persons possess and practice over other people. In a civil state, ''authority'' is made formal by way of a judicial branch and an execu ...
to make
law Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously descr ...
s for a
political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of institutionalized social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resources. A polity can be any other group of p ...
such as a
country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-sovereig ...
or
city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It can be defined as a pe ...
. Legislatures form important parts of most
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government is a ...
s; in the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches. The typical ...
model, they are often contrasted with the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
and
judicial The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudicates legal disputes and interprets, defends, and applies the law in legal cases. ...

judicial
branches of parliamentary government. Laws enacted by legislatures are usually known as
primary legislation In parliamentary systems and presidential systems of government, primary legislation and secondary legislation, the latter also called delegated legislation or subordinate legislation, are two forms of law, created respectively by the legislative ...
. In addition, legislatures may observe and steer governing actions, with authority to amend the
budget 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 o ...
involved. The members of a legislature are called
legislator A legislator (or lawmaker) is a person who writes and passes laws, especially someone who is a member of a legislature. Legislators are often elected by the people of the state. Legislatures may be supra-national (for example, the European Pa ...
s. In a
democracy Democracy ( gr|δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislators. The decisions on who is considered par ...

democracy
, legislators are most commonly popularly elected, although
indirect election An election with electoral delegates is an election in which voters do not choose between candidates for an office, but elect people who then choose. It is one of the oldest forms of elections, and is used by many countries for heads of state (su ...
and appointment by the executive are also used, particularly for
bicameral Bicameralism is the practice of having a legislature divided into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a si ...
legislatures featuring an
upper chamber#REDIRECT Upper house {{Redirect category shell|1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
.


Terminology

The name used to refer to a legislative body varies by country. Common names include: * Assembly (from ''to assemble'') * Congress (from ''to congregate'') * Diet (from old German 'people') * Duma (from Russian ''dúma'' 'thought') * Estates or States (from old French 'condition' or 'status') * Parliament (from French ''parler'' 'to speak') Though the specific roles for each legislature differ by location, they all aim to serve the same purpose of appointing officials to represent their citizens to determine appropriate legislation for the country.


History

Among the earliest recognised legislatures was the
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''
Ecclesia Ecclesia (Greek: ἐκκλησία ''ekklēsia'') may refer to: Organizations *Ecclesia (ancient Athens) or Ekklēsia, the principal assembly of ancient Athens during its Golden Age * The Greek and Latin term for the Christian Church as a whole * ...
.'' In the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages i ...
, European monarchs would host assemblies of the nobility, which would later develop into predecessors of modern legislatures. These were often named
The Estates The Estates, also known as the States (french: États, german: Landstände, nl|Staten), was the assembly of the representatives of the estates of the realm, the divisions of society in feudal times, called together for purposes of deliberation, leg ...
. The oldest surviving legislature is the
Iceland Iceland ( is|Ísland; ) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 356,991 and an area of , making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and t ...
ic
Althing The Alþingi (''Parliament'' in Icelandic, , anglicised as ' or ') is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest surviving parliament in the world. The Althing was founded in 930 at ("thing fields" or "assembly fields"), situated app ...
, founded in 930 CE.


Functions

Democratic legislatures have six major functions: representation, deliberation, legislation, authorizing expenditure, making governments, and oversight.


Representation

There exist five ways that representation can be achieved in a legislature: * Formalistically: how the rules of the legislature ensure representation of constituents; * Symbolically: how the constituents perceive their representatives; * Descriptively: how well the composition of the legislature matches the demographics of the wider society; * Substantively: how well representatives actually respond to the needs of their constituents; * Collectively: how well the representatives represent the interests of the society as a whole.


Deliberation

One of the major functions of a legislature is to discuss and debate issues of major importance to society. This can take place in two forms. In debating legislatures, like
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British overseas territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other politic ...
, there is lively debate on the floor of the legislature. Contrastingly, in committee-based legislatures like the
United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washingto ...
, the deliberation takes place in closed committees.


Legislation

While legislatures have nominally the sole power to create laws, the substantive extent of this power depends on details of the political system. In Westminster-style legislatures the executive (composed of the cabinet) can essentially pass any laws it wants, as it usually has a majority of legislators behind it, kept in check by the party whip, while committee-based legislatures in
continental Europe Mainland or continental Europe is the contiguous continent of Europe, excluding its surrounding islands. It can also be referred to ambiguously as the European continent, – which can conversely mean the whole of Europe – and, by some, s ...
and those in
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government (president) leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of ...
s of the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North and South America. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World. Along with their associated i ...
have more independence in drafting and amending bills.


Authorizing expenditure

The origins of the
power of the purse The power of the purse is the ability of one group to manipulate and control the actions of another group by withholding funding, or putting stipulations on the use of funds. The power of the purse can be used positively (e.g. awarding extra fundin ...
which legislatures typically have in passing or denying
government budget A government budget is a document prepared by the government and/or other political entity presenting its anticipated tax revenues (Inheritance tax, income tax, corporation tax, import taxes) and proposed spending/expenditure (Healthcare, Educati ...
s goes back to the European assemblies of nobility which the
monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in t ...
s would have to consult before raising taxes. For this power to be actually effective, the legislature should be able to amend the budget, have an effective committee system, enough time for consideration, as well as access to relevant background information.


Making governments

The power of the legislature over the government is stronger.


Oversight

There are several ways in which the legislature can hold the government accountable, including questioning, interpellations, and votes of confidence.


Function in authoritarian regimes

In contrast to
democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy, or democratic government; a form of government involving rule by the people. *A member of a Democratic Party: **Democratic Party (United States) (D) **Democratic Party (Cy ...

democratic
systems, legislatures under
authoritarianism Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of a strong central power to preserve the political ''status quo'', and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic v ...
are used to ensure the stability of the power structure by co-opting potential competing interests within the elites, which they achieve (cap) by: * Providing legitimacy; * Incorporating opponents into the system; * Providing some representation of outside interests; * Offering a way to recruit new members to the ruling clique; * Being a channel through which limited grievances and concessions can be passed.


Internal organization

Each chamber of the legislature consists of a number of legislators who use some form of
parliamentary procedure Parliamentary procedure is the body of ethics, rules, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies. In the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zeala ...
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 A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly (a body that uses parliamentary procedure, such as a legislature) necessary to conduct the business of that group. According to ''Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised'', the " ...
. Some of the responsibilities of a legislature, such as giving first consideration to newly proposed legislation, are usually delegated to
committee A committee or commission 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 ...
s made up of a few of the members of the . The members of a legislature usually represent different
political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific ideological or polic ...
; the members from each party generally meet as a
caucus A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The exact definition varies between different countries and political cultures. The term originated in the United States, where it can refer to a meeting of m ...
to organize their internal affairs.


Relation to other branches of government

Legislatures vary widely in the amount of
political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social science that studies ...
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics), meaning "rate of doing work" ** Engine power, the power put out by an engine ** Electric power *** Solar power Power may also refer to: Mathematics, science and technology Computing * IBM Power (soft ...
they wield, compared to other political players such as
judiciaries The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudicates legal disputes and interprets, defends, and applies the law in legal cases. ...

judiciaries
,
militaries A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their ...
, 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 Bundestag (, "Federal Diet") is the German federal parliament. It is the only body that is directly elected by the German people on the federal level. It can be compared to a lower house similar to the United States House of Representatives ...
, the
Italian Parliament The Italian Parliament ( it|Parlamento italiano) is the national parliament of the Italian Republic. It is the representative body of Italian citizens and is the successor to the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946), the transitional N ...
, and the Mongolian
State Great Khural The State Great Khural ( mn|Улсын Их Хурал, ''Ulsyn Ikh Khural'', also State Great Hural, and Ikh Khural; English: lit. State Great Assembly) is the unicameral parliament of Mongolia.Montsame News Agency. ''Mongolia''. 2006, Fore ...
tied for most powerful, while Myanmar's
House of Representatives House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the corresponding upper house often calle ...
and Somalia's Transitional Federal Assembly (since replaced by the
Federal Parliament of Somalia The Federal Parliament of Somalia ( so|Golaha Shacabka Soomaaliya; often ''Baarlamaanka Federaalka Soomaaliya''; ar|البرلمان الاتحادي في الصومال) is the national parliament of Somalia. Formed in August 2012, it is based i ...
) tied for least powerful. Some political systems follow the principle of
legislative supremacy Parliamentary sovereignty (also called parliamentary supremacy or legislative supremacy) is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. It holds that the legislative body has absolute sovereignty and is supreme over all o ...
, 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 A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these principl ...
. Such a system renders the legislature more powerful. In [[parliamentary system|parliamentary and [[semi-presidential system|semi-presidential systems of [[government, the [[Executive branch|executive is responsible to the legislature, which may remove it with a [[Motion of no confidence|vote of no confidence. On the other hand, according to the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches. The typical ...
doctrine, the legislature in a
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government (president) leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of ...
is considered an independent and coequal branch of government along with both the [[Judicial branch|judiciary and the executive. Nevertheless, many presidential systems provide for the [[impeachment of the executive for criminal or unconstitutional behaviour. Legislatures will sometimes delegate their legislative power to [[Administrative agency|administrative or [[Executive agency|executive agencies.


Members

Legislatures are made up of individual members, known as
legislator A legislator (or lawmaker) is a person who writes and passes laws, especially someone who is a member of a legislature. Legislators are often elected by the people of the state. Legislatures may be supra-national (for example, the European Pa ...
s, who [[Voting|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". After election, the members may be protected by [[parliamentary immunity or [[parliamentary privilege, either for all actions the duration of their entire term, or for just those related to their legislative duties.


Chambers

A legislature may [[debate and [[vote upon [[Bill (proposed law)|bills as a single unit, or it may be composed of multiple separate [[Deliberative assembly|assemblies, called by various names including [[Chambers of parliament|''legislative chambers'', [[Debate chamber|''debate chambers'', and ''houses'', which debate and vote separately and have distinct powers. A legislature which operates as a single unit is [[Unicameralism|unicameral, one divided into two chambers is [[Bicameralism|bicameral, and one divided into three chambers is [[Tricameralism|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 [[Federation|federal
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government (president) leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of ...
s, the upper house has equal or even greater power. In [[federations, the upper house typically represents the federation's component states. This is also the case with the supranational legislature of the [[European Union. The upper house may either contain the delegates of state governmentsas in the European Union and in [[Germany and, [[Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution|before 1913, in the United Statesor 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. [[Tetracameralism|Tetracameral legislatures no longer exist, but they were previously used in Scandinavia.


Size

Legislatures vary widely in their size. Among [[List of legislatures by number of members|national legislatures, [[China's [[National People's Congress is the largest with 2,980 members, while [[Vatican City's [[Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State|Pontifical Commission is the smallest with 7. Neither legislature is democratically elected: The Pontifical Commission members are appointed by the Pope and the [[National People's Congress is [[Indirect election|indirectly elected within the context of a [[one-party state. 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.


See also

*[[Congress *[[Election apportionment diagram *[[Evidence-based legislation *[[House of Assembly *[[Legislative Assembly *[[Legislative Council *[[National Assembly *[[Parliament


References


Further reading

* * * * * {{Portal bar|Law|Politics [[Category:Legislatures| [[Category:Separation of powers