Constitutional status of the State Parliament

The Lower Saxony State Parliament, i.e. all the elected members as a body, is the highest constitutional organ of the state. It is the elected representative of all the people (“representative organ”). It incorporates the different opinions and interests into its own policy-making and opinion-forming processes, and implements them through corresponding resolutions in legally or politically significant government decisions (“implementing organ”). The State Parliament’s main duties under the constitution are to exercise legislative authority, decide on the state budget, elect the Prime Minister, participate in the formation of the government and control executive authority according to the constitution.

What this specifically means is that through its status as “legislative organ”, the State Parliament is authorized to pass mandatory laws establishing, amending or repealing rights and obligations. As an “elective organ”, the State Parliament is authorized to elect the Prime Minister in a secret ballot without discussion; moreover, the state government formed by the Prime Minister has to be ratified by the State Parliament before taking office. Furthermore, all the members of the state tribunal and their deputies are elected by parliament, likewise without discussion and in principle by a majority of two-thirds of members of the State Parliament present, but at least by a majority of members. To perform its increasingly important role of “control organ” with respect to the executive authority (government and overall administration), the State Parliament essentially has the following means at its disposal:
  • Right of investigation

  • Right to demand information and to pose questions

  • Special sessions on topical issues

Besides legislating, as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, one of the State Parliament’s most important tasks is deciding on the state budget. The parliamentary “budget right”, i.e. the power to decide how much money should be spent and on what, is traditionally regarded as the “sovereign right” of any democratically elected parliament. This comprises annual examination, amendment and approval of the draft budget drawn up by the government. The draft budget may be regarded as the government programme translated into figures. After all, most political projects cost money. In this respect, a budget expresses a government’s objectives in “euros and cents”.

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