POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

The Legislature

The legislative branch of government is responsible for making laws within a country. Legislatures are made up of people called legislators who, in democracies, are elected by the country’s population. Under political systems employing the separation of powers model, the legislative branch of government has the authority to pass legislation and regulate government taxation and spending, as well as other powers such as approving executive or judicial appointments.

In the United States, the legislative branch of government is called Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, both of which are elected and possess roughly equal legislative powers. Laws passed through both houses are known as Acts of Congress, which are subsequently enforced and implemented by the executive branch of government, and interpreted and applied by the judiciary.

The legislature in the United Kingdom operates somewhat differently to the United States Congress. Whilst the UK Parliament also consists of two chambers, the House of Commons and House of Lords, only the former is elected by the people, whilst the latter is mostly appointed by the Prime Minister. Moreover, the House of Commons has much more legislative power than the House of Lords, as the latter cannot veto laws passed by the former but can only review and propose amendments to bills placed before it. Laws passed by Parliament are known as Acts of Parliament.

See also: Branches of Government, The Executive, The Judiciary

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