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|Founding documents of
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Article One of the Constitution of Cygnia establishes the legislative branch of the Cygnian federal government, the Cygnian Congress. The Congress is a bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate.
Section 1: The Legislature
Clause 1: Legislative power vested in Congress
|“||The legislative power of the Union shall be vested in a Federal Congress, which shall consist of a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called "The Congress", or "The Congress of the Union".||”|
Section 1 contains three clauses, the first of which vests the legislative powers of the federal government in the Congress. Similar clauses are found in Articles II and III, which establish the executive and judicial branches respectively. The separation of powers established by the Constitution is fundamental to the idea of a limited government accountable to the people.
Clause 2: Assembly of Congress
|“||After any general election the Congress shall be summoned to meet not later than 30 days after the day appointed for the return of the writs. The Congress shall be summoned to meet not later than six months after the establishment of the Union.||”|
Clause 2 of Section One requires the assembly of Congress no later than 30 days after the election of a new Congress. This ensures continuity of the legislature, and the minimisation of disruption to that continuity by the election cycle.
Clause 3: Annual sessions of Congress
|“||There shall be a session of the Congress once at least in every year, so that 12 months shall not intervene between the last sitting of the Congress in one session and its first sitting in the next session.||”|
Pursuant to Clause 3, the four-year legislative term of the Congress before 1977 was divided into four sessions, each beginning with the official State Opening of Congress on the first Monday of January each year, and ending with its prorogation on the second-last Friday of December (or, in the case of election years, its dissolution on the first Friday of November). However, the division into sessions is not required, and was not always the case. The practice of having multiple sessions in the same Congress gradually fell into disuse, and all Congresses since 1977 have had a single session. Between 1961 and the turn of the century, the only prorogation occurred in 1968 to allow a new ministry to be formed following the death of Harold Holt.
Clause 3 also prohibits the President, who summons the Congress, from delaying the opening of a session for a period any longer than 12 months. This prohibition constitutionally prevents the executive from operating without the oversight of the legislature.
Section 2: House of Representatives
Clause 1: Composition and election of Members
|“||The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Union. The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective members of their people, and shall not, until the Congress otherwise provides, exceed one for every hundred thousand.||”|
Section Two provides for the election of the House of Representatives. Since Members are to be "directly chosen by the People of the Union," State governments are not allowed to appoint temporary replacements when vacancies occur in a state's delegation to the House of Representatives; instead, the Speaker of the House issues a writ for a by-election to fill the seat.
Clause 2: Number of Members
|“||Subject to this Constitution, the Congress may make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of the members of the House of Representatives.||”|
Clause 2 grants Congress the power to change the number of members sitting in the House of Representatives.
Clause 3: Term limits on the House
|“||Every House of Representatives shall continue for four years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer.||”|
Clause 3 of Section Two establishes a fixed four-year term for the House of Representatives. However, while it prohibits the House for sitting longer than four years without an election, it does not contain any provision requiring that the term be no shorter. This has resulted in some controversy, with some experts taking the view that the four-year term cannot be shortened, meaning that no federal elections should occur within that four-year period; others, and indeed most politicians and government officials, hold the understanding that should the government lose the confidence of the House, it can advise the monarch to dissolve the House of Representatives and issue writs for a general election for a new House to complete the term of the prematurely dissolved one.
Clause 8: By-elections
|“||Whenever a vacancy occurs in the House of Representatives, the Speaker shall issue his writ for the election of a new member, or if there is no Speaker or if he is absent from the Union the King in Council may issue the writ.||”|
Clause 8 makes it clear that it is officers of the federal government — not those of the States — that preside over special elections to fill House vacancies. In the event that a Member should resign or die in office, the Speaker of the House is responsible for issuing the writ of election for the vacant electorate. If the Speaker is absent or the position is itself vacant, the monarch, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, issues the writ in the Speaker's place.
Clause 9: Qualifications of Members
|“||Until the Congress otherwise provides, the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives shall be as follows:
i. he must be of the full age of 21 years, and must be an elector entitled to vote at the election of members of the House of Representatives, or a person qualified to become such elector, and must have been for three years at the least a resident within the limits of the Union as existing at the time when he was chosen;
The Constitution provides four requirements for Members: A Member must be at least 21 years old, must be entitled to vote at House of Representatives elections (or a person qualified to that entitlement), must have been a Cygnian resident for at least three years, and must be a Cygnian citizen. Members do not have to be citizens born in Cygnia to be qualified, and naturalised Cygnians may stand for election to the House.
Clause 10: The Speaker
|“||The House of Representatives shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a member to be the Speaker of the House, and as often as the office of Speaker becomes vacant the House shall again choose a member to be the Speaker. The Speaker shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a member. He may be removed from office by a vote of the House, or he may resign his office or his seat by writing addressed to the King.||”|
Clause 10 establishes the office of Speaker (although the post is mentioned earlier in Clause 8). After an election, the Constitution requires that Members of the House elect one of their own to serve as their chamber's presiding officer. Speakers must also be members of the House, and a Speaker "shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a member." Speakers do not have a specific term limit, can be removed from office by an absolute majority vote in the House, and can be re-elected after the House assembles for the first time following a federal election.
Clause 11: Acting Speaker
|“||Before or during any absence of the Speaker, the House of Representatives may choose a member to perform his duties in his absence.||”|
The Constitution provides for the temporary absence of the Speaker, such as when they are unable to attend the House. In these cases, the House is empowered to elect an Acting Speaker to perform presiding functions on behalf of the Speaker. In modern times, the House of Representatives normally elects two Deputy Speakers — one each from the Government and Opposition — to assist the Speaker, and ordinarily the First Deputy Speaker simply succeeds to the Speakership in the event of the Speaker's absence. Should the First Deputy Speaker also be absent for any reason, the Second Deputy Speaker then takes over.
Clause 12: Resignation from the House
|“||A member may by writing addressed to the Speaker, or to the King if there is no Speaker or if the Speaker is absent from the Union, resign his place, which thereupon shall become vacant.||”|
Clause 12 lays out the procedure for formally resigning from one's seat in the House of Representatives. Members wishing the resign must inform the Speaker — or the monarch if the Speaker is absent — of their intent to resign. Upon receipt and acceptance of the letter of resignation, the seat immediately becomes vacant, and the mechanisms established in Clause 8 are employed to elect a new Member to replace the outgoing one.
Section 5: Powers of Congress
Clause 1: Legislative powers
Congress' legislative powers are specified in Section Five, Clause 1:
|“||The Congress shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Union with respect to:
The powers listed in this clause are known as "specified powers". The Constitution prohibits Congress from passing legislation regarding issues or subjects for which it is not empowered to legislate, instead reserving all legislative powers not constitutionally provided to Congress to the States. Pursuant to the "Referral Subclause" (Subclause 37), however, State Legislatures may grant Congress the power to legislate for matters not listed in Clause 1. Even in that case, such legislation only applies to States whose governments granted Congress the ability to legislate for that matter in the first place, unless other States adopt the law after its passage. This agreement was made during the 1792 Constitutional Convention in order to preserve the power of the States.
Further flexibility is given to Congress through the "incidental power" listed in Subclause 39, which allows Congress to act on matters "incidental" to an enumerated head of power.
In 1967, Congress was granted the power to legislate for Aboriginal Cygnians by the Tenth Amendment, which deleted text from Subclause 26. Prior to the deletion, the Constitution made an exception for the "aboriginal race", thereby disallowing the Union from legislating specifically for that group.
Many of the Supreme Court's constitutional interpretations have focused on Section 5, Clause 1, due to cases arising out of disputes between the States and Congress. It was noted in Pape v Commissioner of Taxation that taxation power under s5c1(ii) is not "unlimited" and must be employed so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States.
Clause 2: Other powers
|“||The Congress shall, subject to this Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Union with respect to:
Clause 2 grants Congress with several additional powers. Notably, it grants Congress "exclusive" power to legislate for the federal capital, as well as all federal property. The Territory of Swan had for most of Cygnia's history as a federated nation been the country's capital, having been ceded to the federal government by Carolina in 1800 for that purpose. Constitutionally, Congress serves as the legislature of the Territory, and is its only legislative authority. However, in 1960 Congress passed the Home Rule Act, which established the Legislative Assembly, giving the Territory limited self-governance. At first, the Assembly served as an advisory body to Congress, which still remained the main decision-making institution for the capital. Over time, the Home Rule Act was incrementally amended, devolving more and more powers to the Legislative Assembly. In 1988, Congress established the Joint Standing Committee on the Territory of Swan, to which it delegated the power of Congress at large to approve the Assembly's legislation. Today, the Legislative Assembly is the primary authority in the Territory of Swan, with the Capital Committee serving as a council of review for the territorial legislature.
Section 6: Powers of the Houses in respect of legislation
Clause 1: Bills of revenue
|“||Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Section Six, Clause 1, mandates that appropriation legislation — that is, budgets — can only originate in the House of Representatives. The Senate is also prohibited from altering budget bills passed by the House, and can only pass or reject them. The House of Councillors under the previous constitution had the power to alter such legislation, but as part of the constitutional reforms put in place by the 1948 Convention, those abilities were removed when the Senate was established in the Councillors' place.
Clause 2: Content of bills of revenue
|“||The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.||”|
This clause requires that the content of appropriation legislation not exceed the boundaries of appropriation.