What is a Legislative Session?

Jason C. Chavis

A legislative session is the process of convening a body of government officials that are mandated with the power to create laws. It takes place over a specific period of time, usually determined by some sort of historical document such as a constitution. A legislative session is undertaken by both parliamentary and presidential systems of government, which have elected officials. Each of these sessions takes place after an election, when the full body is assembled, and before a new election, which creates a new collection of individual members or representatives. The process is different depending on the country in which it takes place.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom, which meets in the Palace at Westminster, is composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom, which meets in the Palace at Westminster, is composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Within the overall concept of most modern governments, there are three distinct branches holding power: the executive, legislature and judiciary. In order to hold a legislative session, a meeting must be conducted between the representatives or members of the legislature. It has essentially nothing to do with the other two branches, but may occasionally feature addresses or attendance by such. The legislature is primarily responsible for lawmaking, basically determining which rules and mandates are legal within the nation or state. While there is oversight by the remaining two branches, this is generally considered to provide the legislative session with the highest power in the land.

Due to the many procedures and processes within most legislative sessions, concepts such as politics generally interact with the duties of the body. The process of creating laws can be very slow, keeping things from getting done. In addition, if the system is set up as a bicameral body, the procedures can vary between the different houses of the legislature. The members and representatives can often become gridlocked due to differences of opinion, which most readily appear in the form of politics due to party affiliation.

In the parliamentary system, a legislative session is convened following an election. Often this lasts from a few months to as much as a year, depending on the duties and laws being addressed. Members are elected from a constituency based on political affiliation. When a party takes the most amount of seats within the legislature, leadership and control is determined from the sheer numbers of the elected officials. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries generally share this system.

Within a presidential system, the process is very similar. Elections are held at specific intervals for each representative's constituency. The executive branch is not selected from members of the legislature, however. This means that while the legislative session convenes with the representatives for periods of time, the executive works independently, albeit with some interaction, at all times. The United States is an example of this system.

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