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A legislature is a decision-making organization, usually associated with national government, that has the power to enact, amend and repeal laws.[1] 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.


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.[2]

Institutional framework[edit]

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


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 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[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Debate #3 Glossary". Hansard Society. November 2003. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  2. ^ "Governing Systems and Executive-Legislative Relations (Presidential, Parliamentary and Hybrid Systems)". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 

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The Tennessean
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:30:00 -0700

The board would have to hold a public meeting and notify the legislature before joining any new efforts to promote national education standards. • Monorail. Nearly two weeks after abandoning the idea, the House Finance Subcommittee voted Tuesday to go ...


Springfield News-Leader
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:30:53 -0700

Jay Nixon, a Democrat, will have to either sign or veto the bill while the legislature is still in session. Nixon has criticized the bill previously. "Once again, the choice facing members of the General Assembly is clear: they can invest in good ...


Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:00:00 -0700

New York State may once again become in play in presidential elections after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that would join New York into a compact with other states to select the president by popular vote instead of the Electoral College, a bill ...
Orlando Sentinel (blog)
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:02:50 -0700

TALLAHASSEE -- A year after passing sweeping reforms on political lobbying and conflicts-of-interests, proposals to impose even stronger ethical requirements on politicians are languishing in the Florida Legislature. An eclectic group of organizations, ...

Bangor Daily News

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Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:26:00 -0700

AUGUSTA, Maine — On Tuesday, the Maine Legislature easily passed a $32 million state budget fix for 2015. The House passed the bill on a vote of 136-8, and the Senate followed suit soon after by passing the bill 35-0. Lawmakers wanted to put the bill ...
The Courier-Journal
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:41:15 -0700

Road Plan: Kentucky's $4.1 billion, two-year state highway construction plan along with the Transportation Cabinet operating budget. Juvenile Justice Reform: Discourages detention of youths who commit minor offenses while improving treatment services.
Pioneer Press
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:11:15 -0700

I have been very pleased with the things being accomplished at the Legislature. I am happy our schools have been reimbursed and education has been an important issue. Restoring the Capitol has been a real joy to watch. We have a real gem there, and it ...

Nashville Scene

The Tennessean
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:41:31 -0700

House Speaker Beth Harwell can be seen thorough the door preparing for what could be the final day of the legislative session. Wednesday April 16, 2014, in Nashville, TN. (Photo: Larry McCormack / THE TENNESSEAN). SHARE 3 CONNECTTWEET 1 ...

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