Top 10 Functions of the Legislature Branch of Government


10 Main Functions of the Legislature Branch of Government

The legislature is perhaps the most important organ of government in the sense that no society can exist without law. It is also believed that an elected legislature is a major distinguishing feature between a democratic and a military government since all forms of government does lawmaking.

This post examines the place and role of the legislature as a major institution of government.


What is legislature?  

A legislature is an assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. They are often contrasted with the executive and judicial powers of government. Laws enacted by legislatures are usually known as primary legislation.

In another words, 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 this way, we can say ‘Parliament’ means the place where deliberations are held. 

Combining the two views, we can say Legislature or Parliament is that branch of government which performs the function of law ­making through deliberations.

The legislature is that organ of the government which passes the laws of the government. It is the agency which has the responsibility to formulate the will of the state and vest it with legal authority and force.

In simple words, the legislature is that organ of the government which formulates laws. Legislature enjoys a very special and important in every democratic state.

It is the assembly of the elected representatives of the people and represents national public opinion and power of the people.


Top 10 Functions of the Legislature Branch of Government 

Basically, the legislature performs the following functions:

1. Law-Making

The primary function of the legislature is to make laws for the good and well-being of the people as well as for the order and security of the state.

Such laws are made in accordance with the state’s constitution and in line with the standing laws and procedure that the assembly has stipulated.

2. Representative Function

Legislature as a body composed of elected representatives of the people. Individual members of the legislature in a democracy are elected to represent their constituencies. They are thus expected to visit and consult their constituencies regularly to feel their pulse for better representation.

3. Deliberative Function

Essentially, the legislature is an arena for keen deliberations; and for this reason, it has been correctly described as a deliberative body. It deliberates on a wide range of issues bordering on welfare, economy, and security, among others.

4. Approval of Annual Budgets

In most countries, the legislature is always known to possess what is called the power of the purse. This implies that the executive cannot legally make any spending without the approval of the legislature.

For this reason, the law requires the executive to lay before the legislature its annual spending proposals and its sectoral break down for consideration, vetting and possible approval. It is through this power that the legislature, on behalf of the electorate, can hold the government and its officials accountable either for misuse of public funds.

5. Confirmation of Nominations made by the Executive

Under the constitution, the executive can only make nominations to major government positions as ministers, judges and ambassadors. Until these nominees are screened and confirmed by the legislature they remain only designates into positions. They can be deemed to have been validly appointed only after the approval of the legislature.

6. Oversight Functions

It is also the responsibility of the legislature (usually through a standing committee) to conduct investigations into the activities of government ministries, departments and agencies to overseeing, monitor and if need be, scrutinize the accounts and documents of government agencies in relation to the enabling legislation.

A standing committee can also organize public hearings or summon government officials to clarify certain issues or defend decisions already made or proposals under consideration by the agency concerned.

7. Impeachment of the Executive

The legislature also reserves the power to invoke the extreme step of censoring and impeaching the President or vice-president in a presidential system or forcing the resignation of a Prime Minister and the government he presides over if the parliament passes a vote of no confidence on it.

In the United States, President Richard Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974, to escape his impeachment the process, which had already commenced in the congress. At the state level, the House of Assembly can also remove a Governor or Deputy Governor from office.

8. Ratification of Treaties/Agreements

The constitution of most countries stipulates that for a treaty or agreement between one country and another to have a full force of the law, and have a binding effect on the peoples of both countries, it must be ratified by the legislature.

9. Constitutional Amendments

Another important function of the legislature is the power to amend the nation’s constitution. It may modify sections of the constitution or replace it in its entirety.

In a federal system, this power is shared between the inclusive government and the government of the component states. Under the Nigerian constitution, a bill for the amendment of the constitution must receive the support of two-thirds of members of both houses of the National assembly as well as 24 out of the 36 of the states in the country.

Without meeting these stringent requirements, the bill cannot receive presidential assent.

10. Judicial Functions

It is customary to give some judicial power to the legislature. Usually, the legislature is assigned to act as a court of impeachment i.e. as an investigating court for trying high public officials on charges of treason, misdemeanor and high crimes and remove them from office.

In India, the Union Parliament can impeach the President.

It has also the power to pass a resolution for the removal of Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Court’s on the ground of misbehavior or incapacity.


Conclusion on top 10 Functions of the Legislature Branch of Government 

The legislature is an important organ of government. In fact, it is the distinctive mark of both democracy and a state’s sovereignty.

However, over time in many countries, and for different reasons, the legislature is losing ground to the executive.

This problem is more acute in emerging democracies where the legislators are still struggling to win their independence from the over-bearing influence of the executives.

The post has equally identified lawmaking, representation and oversight functions, among others as the basic functions of the legislature.

It is the performance of these functions that distinguish the legislature as the symbol of democracy.

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