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Foreign Policy Analysis
Legislature

Legislature


A legislature is a decision-making organization,
usually associated with national government, that has the power to enact, amend and repeal
laws. Legislatures observe and steer governing actions
and usually have exclusive authority to amend the budget or budgets involved in the process. The most common names for national legislatures
are “parliament” and “congress”, although these terms have more specific meanings. Terminology
As well as “parliament” and “congress”, names for legislatures include “assembly”, “diet”,
“majlis” and “council”. “Parliament” generally refers to a legislature
within a Westminster-style system. Because members of legislatures usually sit
together in a specific room to deliberate, seats in that room may be assigned exclusively
to members of the legislature. In parliamentary language, the term “seat”
is sometimes used to mean that someone is a member of a legislature. For example, to say that a legislature has
100 “seats” means that there are 100 members of the legislature; and saying that someone
is “contesting a seat” means they are trying to be elected as a member of the legislature. By extension, the term “seat” is often used
in less formal contexts to refer to an electoral district itself, as, for example, in the phrases
“safe seat” and “marginal seat”. 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. Institutional framework
A legislature creates a complex interaction between individual members, political parties,
committees, rules of parliamentary procedure, and informal norms. Chambers
A legislature is composed of one or more deliberative assemblies that separately debate and vote
upon bills. These assemblies are normally known as chambers
or houses. A legislature with only one house is a unicameral
legislature, while a bicameral legislature possesses two separate chambers, usually described
as an “upper house” and a “lower house”. These usually differ in the duties and powers
they exercise – the upper house being more revisionary or advisory in parliamentary systems –
and the methods used for the selection of members. 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. In presidential systems, the powers of the
two houses are often similar or equal, while 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. See also
Legislative Council Parliamentary system
List of legislatures by country Notes and references

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