Legislature | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction to Criminal Justice

A legislature is an elected body, such as Congress, that has the constitutional authority to make laws.

A legislature is a fundamental component of any democratic government, serving as the primary institution responsible for creating and passing laws.  These laws include many criminal justice concerns, such as the criminal code.  In the United States, the legislative branch of government is composed of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Senate is made up of two senators from each state, while the House of Representatives is composed of representatives from each state based on population. The two houses work together to create laws, with each body playing a distinct role in the legislative process.

The process of creating laws typically begins with the introduction of a bill. This can be done by any member of Congress, although bills that originate in the House of Representatives must first be approved by the House Rules Committee before they can be debated on the floor.

Once a bill has been introduced, it goes through a series of committees and subcommittees, where it is reviewed, debated, and amended. This process can take weeks or even months, with members of Congress working to craft the bill in a way that reflects the needs and concerns of their constituents.

After the bill has been thoroughly vetted by the committees, it is debated on the floor of the respective chamber. Members of Congress have the opportunity to voice their opinions and argue in favor of or against the bill. In the Senate, the debate is often characterized by the use of the filibuster, a tactic used to prolong debate in order to delay or prevent the bill from coming to a vote.

Once the debate has concluded, the bill is put to a vote. If the bill passes in one chamber, it is sent to the other chamber for consideration. If the bill is approved by both the House and the Senate, it is sent to the President for signature or veto.

The role of the legislature extends beyond the creation of laws. Congress is also responsible for a number of other important functions, including oversight of the executive branch, ratification of treaties, and confirmation of presidential appointments.

In order to ensure that the legislative branch is able to carry out its duties effectively, members of Congress are granted a number of powers and privileges. These include immunity from arrest while attending sessions of Congress, the ability to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents, and the power to declare war.

While the legislative branch is designed to be a co-equal branch of government, it has faced a number of challenges and criticisms over the years. One of the most common criticisms is that the legislative process can be slow and cumbersome, with bills often getting bogged down in committee or delayed by partisan politics.

In recent years, there has been growing concern about the influence of money and special interests on the legislative process. Some argue that wealthy donors and lobbyists have an outsized influence on the legislative process, making it difficult for ordinary citizens to have their voices heard.

Despite these challenges, the legislative branch remains an essential component of American democracy. By giving elected officials the power to create and pass laws, it provides a vital link between the government and the people, ensuring that the needs and concerns of citizens are reflected in the policies and laws that govern their lives.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/05/2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.