The legislative arm of government can also be called the legislative organ of government or legislative branch of government. They are all the same. Also, note that another name for legislature is parliament.
In this article, I will thoroughly explain the legislative arm, including it’s powers and functions. Let’s get started!
The legislative arm is an organ of government that is responsible for the making of laws.
Most legislatures are made up of two houses: the upper and the lower. In Nigeria, the upper house is called the Senate House, while the lower house is called the House of Representatives. America also consists of two identical houses like Nigeria – Senate and House of Representatives.
In the British parliament, the upper house is the House of Lords, while the lower house is the House of Commons.
Any legislative house with upper and lower houses is considered Bicameral (meaning two houses). On the other hand, any single legislative body is said to be unicameral (meaning one). As we proceed, I will explain these two terms (Unicameral and Bicameral).
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Functions of the legislative organ
These are the roles that the legislative arm plays in a country.
Making of laws
The essential function of the parliament (legislature) is to make laws. Laws help regulate a country or state to maintain peace and promote growth.
Lawmaking is the major function of the legislative organ. It’s exclusively given to it by the Constitution. In addition, it is also a legislative function to repeal or amend existing laws to suit the precise changes in the country.
It is also their function to state the punishments given to any law offenders. As they make the laws, they attach proper punishments which shall accrue to anyone who defaults it.
Control of Government Revenue
At the beginning of each financial year, the Executive presents budgets for the year to the legislature for approval. Before such a budget becomes operative, the legislature must approve it.
In a case where the Executive may need extra money outside the budget for expenditure, the legislature would also have to approve it. In all, the legislature controls both the expenditure and revenue of the country.
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It has control over the executive
The legislature can control the executive in several ways. One of the ways is that it can remove the president. However, it does not remove him at its own will. It is only at the will of the law.
The legislature can remove the president only when he is guilty of any allegation laid against him, possibly making him lose his office. The legislative house has to undergo some processes before removing him.
The legislative arm of government can also call the ministers up to the floor of the house to explain and defend their actions.
Approval of appointments | Legislative organ of government
The executive is vested with the powers to make appointments of ministers, Justices, Judges, and so on. But his appointments are subject to approval by the parliament. This is obtainable in countries like Nigeria, USA, etc.
Approval of International Treaties
Before the president enters into any valid treaty with another country or any external body, it must be approved by the Senate. If the Senate doesn’t approve it, then it won’t be valid.
The parliament performs judicial-like functions in some countries. For instance, the House of Lords in Britain, through its Privy Council, serves as the last Court of Appeal in the country.
Now we have seen the different functions of the legislative branch of government. Let’s now look at the types of legislature that we have.
Types of Legislature
There are two types of legislature: the Unicameral legislature and Bicameral legislature.
Unicameral legislature is a type of legislative arm that consists of only one legislative body. It is most common in small countries which have few linguistic and cultural differences.
During the time of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana had a unicameral legislature. It is the best form of the legislature only when such a country is not complex in both culture and language.
Advantages of Unicameral legislature
1. It saves money.
The money used to run a Bicameral legislature is so huge that a country may not be able to afford it. But, running a single legislative body is less costly.
2. Laws are passed easily.
Laws in a Unicameral legislature are straightforward to enact as they will not go through much debating and voting. While in Bicameral legislature, both houses will debate and vote. In some cases, the bill does not succeed.
Disadvantages of Unicameral legislature
1. Hasty passing of laws.
Laws are passed without proper debating. The house only consists of a few persons who may not consider all the aspects of citizens’ lives before enacting a law.
2. Enactment of inconsistent laws.
Sometimes, they end up enacting laws that are not favorable to the citizens. In a case where the members of the house are tyrants, then any law goes.
Bicameral legislature | Legislative organ of government
This is a type of legislature that has two legislative bodies. These bodies include the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate House is the upper house. Its head is the Senate President, while the head of the House of Representatives is the Speaker.
Advantages of Bicameral legislature
1. It enacts well-debated laws
Before a bill succeeds and becomes law in a bicameral legislature, it must have gone through many stages. It goes from the first reading > second reading > committee stage > report stage > third reading > President’s assent.
Since it passes through these stages, possible faults and goodness of a bill to the country are properly considered.
2. It observes the minority
The bicameral legislature to takes note of the minority in the country. In fact, it enacts laws in favor of every citizen.
Disadvantages of Bicameral legislature
1. It is expensive
It is very costly to maintain dual legislative house. The salary and allowances of members of both houses are very high.
Delay in passage of law
Sometimes, a country may need an urgent change or amendment of the Constitution to get moving, but due to the bicameral legislative system, such amendment will delay. In some cases, it won’t hold.
Legislative Arm of government in Nigeria
Let’s quickly take a look at the legislature in Nigeria.
Nigeria has both the Senate House and House of Representatives in all levels of government. The legislative arm of government is called the National Assembly at the federal level. At the state level, it is called State House of Assembly. The State House of Assembly makes laws for the local government.
The Senate House consists of 109 members, while the House of Representatives consists of 360 members.
Sometimes, the legislature appears to be the most powerful organ of government. However, the powers and functions of the legislature are also curtailed through different means.
The principle of checks and balances is a crucial tool that only supports some over-exercise of its powers. In other words, other arms of government check powers.
The judiciary declares the actions of the legislative arm null and void whenever it acts against the Constitution.