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A legislature is an assembly with the
authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is a social science that focuses on society, human social behavior, patterns of Interpersonal ties, social relationships, social interaction, and aspects of culture associated with everyday life. It use ...

authority
to make
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
s for a political entity such as a
country A country is a distinct part of the world, such as a state (polity), state, nation, or other polity, political entity. It may be a sovereign state or make up one part of a larger state. For example, the country of Japan is an independent, so ...
or
city A city is a human settlement of notable size.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 def ...

city
. They are often contrasted with the executive 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 adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...

judicial
powers of
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 ...

government
. Laws enacted by legislatures are usually known as primary legislation. In addition, legislatures may observe and steer governing actions, with authority to amend the budget involved. The members of a legislature are called
legislator A legislator (also known as a deputy 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 ex ...
s. In a
democracy Democracy (From grc, δημοκρατία, dēmokratía, ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which people, the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choo ...

democracy
, legislators are most commonly popularly
elected
elected
, although
indirect election An indirect election or ''hierarchical voting'' is an election in which voters do not choose directly among candidates or parties for an office (direct voting system), but elect people who in turn choose candidates or parties. It is one of the old ...
and appointment by the executive are also used, particularly for
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided into two separate Deliberative assembly, assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and ...
legislatures featuring an
upper chamber An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tsebelis The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smalle ...
.


Terminology

The name used to refer to a legislative body varies by country. Common names include: * Assembly (from ''to assemble'') * Congress (from ''to congregate'') * Council (from Latin 'meeting') * Diet (from old German 'people') * Estates or States (from old French 'condition' or 'status') * Parliament (from French ''parler'' 'to speak') By names: *
House of Assembly House of Assembly is a name given to the legislature or lower house of a bicameralism, bicameral parliament. In some countries this may be at a administrative division, subnational level. Historically, in Kingdom of Great Britain, British Crown ...
*
House of Chiefs A House of Chiefs (or ''House of Traditional Leaders'') is a postcolonialism#Africa, post-colonial assembly, either legislative or Privy council, advisory, that is recognised by either a national or regional government as consisting of and providing ...
* Legislative assembly * Legislative council *
National Assembly In politics, a national assembly is either a unicameral legislature, the lower house of a bicameral legislature, or both houses of a bicameral legislature together. In the English language it generally means "an assembly composed of the repre ...

National Assembly
By languages: *
Cortes Cortes, Cortés, Cortês, Corts, or Cortès may refer to: People * Cortes (surname), including a list of people with the name ** Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), a Spanish conquistador Places * Cortes, Navarre, a village in the South border of N ...

Cortes
(from Spanish 'courts') *
Duma A duma (russian: дума) is a History of Russia, Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions. The term ''boyar duma'' is used to refer to advisory councils in Russia from the 10th to 17th centuries. Starting in the 18th century, c ...

Duma
(from Russian ''dúma'' 'thought') *
Knesset The Knesset ( he, הַכְּנֶסֶת ; "gathering" or "assembly") is the Unicameralism, unicameral legislature of Israel. As the supreme state body, the Knesset is Parliamentary sovereignty, sovereign and thus has complete control of the e ...

Knesset
(from Hebrew 'gathering' or 'assembly') *
Rada The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA; ) is a drama school in London, England, that provides vocational conservatoire training for theatre, film, television, and radio. It is based in the Bloomsbury area of Central London, close to the Senate ...

Rada
(from Ukrainian 'council') *
Sejm The Sejm (English: , Polish: ), officially known as the Sejm of the Republic of Poland (Polish language, Polish: ''Sejm Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej''), is the lower house of the bicameralism, bicameral parliament of Poland. The Sejm has been th ...
(from Polish 'gathering') *
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
(from Russian 'council') * Thing (from old Germanic 'assembly') *
Veche Veche ( rus, вече, véče, ˈvʲet͡ɕe; pl, wiec; uk, ві́че, víče, ; be, ве́ча, viéča, ; cu, wikt:вѣще#Old Church Slavonic, вѣще, věšte) was a popular assembly in medieval Slavic peoples, Slavic countries. In Ve ...
(from old Slavic 'council') 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
Athenian Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is a coastal city in the Mediterranean and is both the capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Greece, largest city of Greece. With a population close to ...

Athenian
'' Ecclesia.'' In the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
, European monarchs would host assemblies of the nobility, which would later develop into predecessors of modern legislatures. These were often named The Estates. The oldest surviving legislature is the
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic countries, Nordic island country in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and in the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is the most list of countries and dependencies by population density, sparsely populated coun ...

Iceland
ic
Althing The Alþingi (''general meeting'' in Icelandic language, Icelandic, , anglicised as ' or ') is the Parliamentary sovereignty, supreme Parliament, national parliament of Iceland. It is one of the oldest surviving parliaments in the world. The Al ...
, 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 activity can take place in two forms. In debating legislatures, such as the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It meets at the Palace of We ...
, the floor of the legislature frequently sees lively debate. In contrast, in committee-based legislatures like the
United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicameralism, bicameral, composed of a lower body, the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives, and an upper body, ...

United States Congress
, 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 Continental Europe or mainland 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 ...

continental Europe
and those in
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government, typically with the title of President (government title), president, leads an Executive (government), executive branch that is separate from ...
s of the
Americas The Americas, which are sometimes collectively called America, are a landmass comprising the totality of North America, North and South America. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World. ...

Americas
have more independence in drafting and amending bills.


Authorizing expenditure

The origins of the power of the purse 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 government revenues, tax revenues (Inheritance tax, income tax, corporation tax, import taxes) and proposed government expenditu ...
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. Life tenure, for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority ...

monarch
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 systems, legislatures under
authoritarianism Authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political ''status quo'', and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic votin ...
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 accepted Procedural law, rules, ethics, and Norm (sociology), customs governing meetings of an deliberative assembly, assembly or organization. Its object is to allow orderly deliberation upon questions of interest ...
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, Robert's Rules of Or ...
. 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 subordinate to a deliberative assembly. A committee is not itself considered to be a form of assembly. Usually, the assembly sends matters into a committee as a way to explore them more ...

committee
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 particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
; 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 ...
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 among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social science that stu ...

political
power they wield, compared to other political players such as , , 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 (assembly), Diet") is the German Federalism, federal parliament. It is the only federal representative body that is directly elected by the German people. It is comparable to the United States House of Representat ...

Bundestag
, 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 (1861–1943), the transitio ...
, and the Mongolian
State Great Khural The State Great Khural, ; "State Great Assembly" is the unicameral Unicameralism (from ''uni''- "one" + Latin ''camera'' "chamber") is a type of legislature, which consists of one house or assembly, that legislates and votes as one. Unic ...
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 Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided ...
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 ba ...

Federal Parliament of Somalia
) tied for least powerful. Some political systems follows 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 A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who ...

constitution
. Such a system renders the legislature more powerful. In
parliamentary A parliamentary system, or parliamentarian democracy, is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (or subordinate entity) where the Executive (government), executive derives its democratic legitimacy ...
and
semi-presidential A semi-presidential republic, is a republic in which a President (government title), president exists alongside a prime minister and a Cabinet (government), cabinet, with the latter two being responsible to the legislature of the State (polity ...
systems of
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 ...

government
, the executive is responsible to the legislature, which may remove it with a
vote of no confidence A motion of no confidence, also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence, or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or mana ...
. On the other hand, according to the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflic ...

separation of powers
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, typically with the title of President (government title), president, leads an Executive (government), executive branch that is separate from ...
is considered an independent and coequal branch of government along with both the
judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...
and the executive. Nevertheless, many presidential systems provide for the
impeachment Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body or other legally constituted tribunal initiates charges against a public official for misconduct. It may be understood as a unique process involving both political Politics (from , ...

impeachment
of the executive for criminal or unconstitutional behaviour. Legislatures will sometimes delegate their legislative power to administrative or executive agencies.


Members

Legislatures are made up of individual members, known as
legislator A legislator (also known as a deputy 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 ex ...
s, who
vote Voting is a method by which a group, such as a meeting or an Constituency, electorate, can engage for the purpose of making a collective decision making, decision or expressing an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election camp ...

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 An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, or (election) precinct is a subdivision of a larger State (polity), state (a country, administrative region, ...
that elects a single legislator can also be described as a "seat", as, for example, in the phrases "
safe seat A safe seat is an electoral district (constituency) in a legislative body (e.g. Congress, Parliament, City Council) which is regarded as fully secure, for either a certain political party, or the incumbent representative personally or a combi ...
" and "
marginal seat A marginal seat or swing seat is a constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, or (election) precinct is a subdivision of a larger stat ...
". After election, the members may be protected by
parliamentary immunity Parliamentary immunity, also known as legislative immunity, is a system in which politicians such as President (government title), president, President (government title), vice president, governor, Lieutenant Governor, lieutenant governor, member ...
or
parliamentary privilege Parliamentary privilege is a Immunity from prosecution, legal immunity enjoyed by members of certain legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course o ...
, either for all actions the duration of their entire term, or for just those related to their legislative duties.


Chambers

A legislature may
debate Debate is a process that involves formal discourse on a particular topic, often including a Discussion moderator, moderator and audience. In a debate, arguments are put forward for often opposing viewpoints. Debates have historically occurred ...

debate
and
vote Voting is a method by which a group, such as a meeting or an Constituency, electorate, can engage for the purpose of making a collective decision making, decision or expressing an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election camp ...

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 Unicameralism (from ''uni''- "one" + Latin ''camera'' "chamber") is a type of legislature, which consists of one house or assembly, that legislates and votes as one. Unicameral legislatures exist when there is no widely perceived need for multic ...
, one divided into two chambers is
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided into two separate Deliberative assembly, assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and ...
, and one divided into three chambers is tricameral. In bicameral legislatures, one chamber is usually considered the
upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tsebelis The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smalle ...
, while the other is considered the
lower house A lower house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a Bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house. Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide, the lower house has co ...
. 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 division Administrative division, administrative unit,Article 3(1). country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, constituent state, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for geographical areas into which a particular, ind ...

administrative division
s rather than by population, and tend to have longer terms than members of the lower house. In some systems, particularly
parliamentary system A parliamentary system, or parliamentarian democracy, is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (or subordinate entity) where the Executive (government), executive derives its democratic legitimacy ...
s, the upper house has less power and tends to have a more advisory role, but in others, particularly
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government, typically with the title of President (government title), president, leads an Executive (government), executive branch that is separate from ...
s, the upper house has equal or even greater power. In
federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-govern ...

federation
s, the upper house typically represents the federation's component states. This is also the case with the supranational legislature of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...

European Union
. The upper house may either contain the delegates of state governmentsas in the European Union and in Germany and, 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 South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...

South Africa
. Tetracameral legislatures no longer exist, but they were previously used in Scandinavia. The only legislature with a number of chambers bigger than four was the Federal Assembly of Yugoslavia; initially established as a Pentacameral body in 1963, it was turned into a hexacameral body in 1967.


Size

Legislatures vary widely in their size. Among
national legislatures This is a list of legislatures by country. A "legislature" is the generic name for the national parliaments and congresses that act as a plenary general Deliberative assembly, assembly of Representative democracy, representatives and that have t ...
, China's
National People's Congress The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (NPC; ), or simply the National People's Congress, is constitutionally the supreme state authority and the legislature, national legislature of the People's Republic of Chi ...
is the largest with 2,980 members, while
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vati ...

Vatican City
's 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 The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China (NPC; ), or simply the National People's Congress, is constitutionally the supreme state authority and the legislature, national legislature of the People's Republic of Chi ...
is indirectly elected within the context of a
one-party state A one-party state, single-party state, one-party system, or single-party system is a type of sovereign state in which only one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties ...
. 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 A lower house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a Bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house. Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide, the lower house has co ...
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

*List of legislative buildings *Election apportionment diagram *Evidence-based legislation


References


Further reading

* * * * * {{Portal bar, Law, Politics Legislatures, Separation of powers