Legislation (or "statutory law") is law which has been promulgated (or "enacted") by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it. (Another source of law is judge-made law or case law.) Before an item of legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill, and may be broadly referred to as "legislation" while it remains under consideration to distinguish it from other business. Legislation can have many purposes: to regulate, to authorize, to proscribe, to provide (funds), to sanction, to grant, to declare or to restrict.
Under the Westminster system, an item of primary legislation is known as an Act of Parliament after enactment.
Legislation is usually proposed by a member of the legislature (e.g. a member of Congress or Parliament), or by the executive, whereupon it is debated by members of the legislature and is often amended before passage. Most large legislatures enact only a small fraction of the bills proposed in a given session. Whether a given bill will be proposed and enter into force is generally a matter of the legislative priorities of government.
Legislation is regarded as one of the three main functions of government, which are often distinguished under the doctrine of the separation of powers. Those who have the formal power to create legislation are known as legislators; a judicial branch of government will have the formal power to interpret legislation (see statutory interpretation); the executive branch of government can act only within the powers and limits set by the law.
Famous quotes containing the word legislation:
“No legislation can suppress nature; all life rushes to reproduction; our procreative faculties are matured early, while passion is strong, and judgment and self-restraint weak. We cannot alter this, but we can alter what is conventional. We can refuse to brand an act of nature as a crime, and to impute to vice what is due to ignorance.”
—Tennessee Claflin (18461923)
“But the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the twisting; that the State must follow, and not lead the character and progress of the citizen; the strongest usurper is quickly got rid of; and they only who build on Ideas, build for eternity; and that the form of government which prevails, is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“The laboring man and the trade-unionist, if I understand him, asks only equality before the law. Class legislation and unequal privilege, though expressly in his favor, will in the end work no benefit to him or to society.”
—William Howard Taft (18571930)