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Parliament of Sierra
Parlamento de Sierra (es)
黃金王國議會 (zh)
Quốc hội Sierra (vn)
시에라의 의회 (kr)
รัฐสภาของเซียร์ (th)
Parlamento ng Sierra (tl)
シエラの議会 (ja)
Serran DSerran ISerran NSerran SSerran HSerran A  Serran KSerran I  Serran SSerran ESerran RSerran RSerran A (sb)
78th Parliament of Sierra
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Bicameral
Houses Senate
House of Commons
Leadership
Steven HongDR
Since December 16, 2008
Senate President pro tempore
Erica ShinigawaR
Since October 16, 2014
Joe MillardR
Since October 16, 2014
Structure
Seats 334
Senate committees 23 committees
69 subcommittees
House of Commons committees 23 committees
77 subcommittees
Joint committees
7 joint committees
Elections
First-past-the-post (Senate)
Ranked voting (House)
Senate last election
2014
House of Commons last election
2014
Meeting place
Parliament Building of Sierra
Parliament Building, Porciúncula, GC
Website
parliament.gc.ks

The Parliament of Sierra is the supreme bicameral legislature of the Kingdom of Sierra, its territories, and its crown dependencies. The Parliament is composed of two houses: the Senate and the House of Commons. Headquartered at the Parliament Building, a large complex located in a federally owned section of Downtown Porciúncula, the Parliament meets daily to convene on issues and laws relating to Sierra. All 70 senators and 264 representatives (or commoners) are elected directly by the general populace.

Originally established by the Constitution of Sierra, the Parliament was originally composed of a Senate with 46 members (excluding the Prime Minister) and a House with 250 members. Following the promulgation of the 1950 Charter for the Kingdom of Sierra, 28 more seats were added to the Senate and 14 more seats in the House to accommodate the newly established constituent countries of the Deseret and Hawaii's combined set of 14 administrative subdivisions. Although Sierra became a constituent country as well, it retained the Parliament of Sierra as its "national" parliament, while the Deseret and Hawaii were allowed their own national legislatures in addition to the Parliament. Consequently, Sierra has no devolved legislature comprised solely of its own citizens. While Sierra's federal system of government and its Constitution does not apply to the Deseret or Hawaii, the rules and regulations that control the Parliament remain embedded within the Sierran constitution, with few additional provisions by the Charter. Consequently, the Sierran Constitution's provisions regarding representational allocation apply to the Deseret and Hawaii.

In both houses, senators and commoners are elected to represent a single constituency at-large (a province, state, or region in the case of senators or a parliamentary district in the case of commoners). Each recognized administrative second-level territory from the Deseret, Hawaii, or Sierra have two senators, regardless of size or population. Parliamentary districts are apportioned to the Deseret regions, Hawaiian states, and Sierran provinces by population using the Sierra Royal Bureau of Census' report, provided that each is represented by at least one commoner. Each senator serves a term of 6 years, with elections staggered, ensuring about a third of the Senate facing elections every two years. In the House, its members are elected to a term of 2 years.

Overview

Kingdom of Sierra
Coat of arms of Sierra.svg

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of the
Kingdom of Sierra


Article V of the Constitution of Sierra designates all legislative power to the Parliament. It should be noted that although the Constitution applies only to the country of Sierra, as it is the ultimate source of the Parliament's authority, aspects of its concerning legislative power and the Parliament's authority over the Deseret and Hawaii are indirectly applied. All legislation requires being reviewed and agreed upon by both houses although there are several exclusive powers conferred to both houses.

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Parliament of the Kingdom, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Commons.

Article V, Section I (1858 Constitution of Sierra)

In the Senate, the Prime Minister serves the dual role of representing the Monarch in Parliament as the civil executive head and a voting Speaker. The smaller of the two houses, the Senate is composed of 70 senators or 2 senators elected each from their respective provinces, states, or regions. As the upper house, the Senate oversees the legislative approval of executive actions including acts of royal prerogative. It is often perceived that the Senate is by far the more prestigious of the two chambers as senators represent entire provinces rather than local constituencies and work in a smaller albeit closer environment. In the House of Commons, the Speaker is, by tradition, the most senior member in the House. The House is considered more partisan than its senatorial counterpart and therefore, places a heavier emphasis on party leadership and caucuses.

In the Senate, all members serve six-year terms but only one-third face an election every 2 years. The first year of a consecutive term of a senator or commoner was elected determines which of the three electoral "classes" he/she will be enrolled in. Elections are held every 2 years with one of the classes cycled in for the requirement and the process completes every 6 years. All commoners are elected every 2 years. Both senators and commoners are elected directly by the people but senators are elected in provincial-wide elections whereas commoners are elected by constituents within their districts.

Two calendar years (730–731 days) including leap years are considered one legislative year. A year begins and ends on each October 16 by every two years of an even number coinciding with Election Day which in itself may see other major elections including that of the Prime Minister. At the beginning of each legislative year, a parliamentary budget, records, calendar, and regulations for both houses must be made before normal sessions can be conducted. Party leadership positions and responsibilities are determined during this time and new members are initiated into Parliament as they orient themselves with the environment. At the conclusion of each year, all records are surmised into an official archival report and plans for the next year are forwarded to the prime minister and monarch.

History

Parliament was established as part of a compromise during the drafting of the Constitution of Sierra between pro-American republicanism and pro-British monarchism. Modeling the legislature after the United States Congress, the Constitution allowed one unique pro-monarchist feature in Parliament which was the prime minister's direct role in Parliament. The prime minister would be a voting member of the Senate as the representative of the monarch and therefore function as both an executive power and a legislator.

During the Parliament's infancy, it found itself divided in an intense political struggle between two major parties: the Royalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The Royalists advocated maintaining the current model of the Sierran monarchy and federalism while the Democratic-Republicans advocated for the further restriction or even abolition of the monarchy and expanded provincial rights. Both houses were marked with high incidences of legislative violence and in one case, a politically-motivated double murder.

As King Smith I's reign waned with the acquisition of numerous overseas territories, both parties sought a conciliatory approach by establishing joint bipartisan committees and "compromise" groups to sort out differences and disputes. Although throughout the early 20th century, the parties had strong, contrasting views and attacked each other fiercely on the political front, Parliament enjoyed a long period of efficiency and cooperation up until the beginning of the Cold War. The organization and ontological concept of the Parliament was redefined in 1950 when the Charter was established, converting the Sierran territories of the Deseret and Hawaii into constituent countries, and Sierra, as one as well. More seats were allocated, and scope of the Parliament was thus enlarged. Since the 1990s, other parties, especially the Libertarian and Green parties have introduced coalition politics and enhanced representation of the diversifying political community of Sierrans.

Composition, powers, and functions

Article V of the Constitution stipulates most of the Parliament's powers and responsibilities including several explicit and implied powers. Additional powers are granted through either amendments or other federally codified laws.

Parliament has the authority to manage the nation's financial and budgetary policy including the collection of taxes (most notably the federal income tax), duties, imposts, and excises; to pay debts; and to provide welfare services to Sierrans. It may also borrow money on the credit of the Kingdom; regulate interprovincial and international commerce; coin and print money; and pass tariffs.

Aside from financial powers, the Parliament is responsible for providing the Kingdom national defense. The Parliament has the exclusive right of declaring war as outlined in Section VIII of Article V of the Constitution as well as the ability to raise, maintain, and regulate the nation's armed forces. Although Parliament is responsible for procuring and providing funds for the armed forces, the forces' actions are ultimately controlled by the Crown and the executive branch. Parliament has never declared war in its entire history–all wars Sierra became involved in were initiated through executive order; through a resolution passed by Parliament that authorized military force; or through a resolution passed by the League of Nations Security Council.

Parliament can also: establish post offices; establish public roads and highways; issue patents and copyrights; fix standards of weights and measures; establish inferior courts for the Supreme Court; regulate commerce with foreign nations, commerce between the provinces, and commerce with Native Sierran reservations; define and punish crimes committed by Sierrans overseas; and "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by [the] Constitution" (implied powers). Article VIII grants Parliament the power to admit new provinces. Similarly, Parliament plays an equally relevant and important role in relation to the provinces as in the case of secession as provided by in Amendment VI. The amendment declares that one of the requirements for successful and legal move to secession be the two-thirds approval of both houses in Parliament. In addition, the amendment provides Parliament the power to "create and enforce any laws concerning secessions as well to ensure the Safety and Competence of any succeeding seceding Provinces absolving its allegiance to the Kingdom."

Among the other functions of the Parliament is to check the monarchy, the executive, and the judiciary. Parliamentary oversight over specific government agencies and bodies are assigned and delegated to various specialized committees within the legislature. Exercising the right of subpoena, the Parliament may request the presence of any officials including the monarch himself/herself in a testimony. Parliament has the power to impeach or remove officials including the prime minister, federal judges, and other officers. In addition, any dismissals made by the monarch must be approved by Parliament. While the fount of honor rests within the monarch, Parliament may strip any honors, titles, ranks, offices, and privileges from any royal officials (excluding the monarch and his/her consort). As provided in Article III, Parliament has considerable responsibility with the monarchy including: handling abdications or renunciations; determining a successor to the Crown in the event that all eligible inheritors are non-existent; and appointing a regent or guardian whenever no one can normally fulfill that capacity.

Structure

Seal of the Senate of Sierra.svg
Seal of the Senate
Seal of the Sierra House of Commons.svg
Seal of the House of Commons

Parliament, a bicameral legislature, is divided into two houses: the upper house Senate and the lower house House of Commons. Both houses are organized similarly–lawmaking and legislative duties is divided and fragmented into various committees and subcommittees responsible for specific issues and are composed of internally elected or appointed specialized members. Much of the procedural work in Parliament happens not on the floor but rather in the committees where members identify issues relevant to Parliament and then draft, discuss, and review bills targeting such issues before sending it to the floor. A committee's functions extend beyond merely housing topic-related bills. Each committee develop its own policy and procedures and are also responsible for informing the entire parliamentary body with their own investigative findings and research on their designated topic and recommending decisions for the executive branch.

Officers

Every two years, at the beginning of a new legislative year, the House elects a new speaker who is usually the most senior or trusted member of the majority party. In the Senate, the prime minister functions both a voting member (as the nation's senator at-large) and its speaker. Whenever the prime minister is not present at an active session, the President pro tempore, who is elected in a similar fashion as the House Speaker, presides over the meetings. Other important positions including party leaders, whips, and assistants are determined by each parties' respective caucuses. These officials play a crucial role in the partisan nature of Parliament and dictate party agenda within each house. Most committee officers are elected by their fellow peers within such bodies. However, both the head of the Senate and House Committees of the Whole are two examples of committees posts where members are appointed by the respective speaker of each house.

Auxiliary bodies

In addition to both of the houses, Parliament includes several bodies that are also within its scope with a wide range of responsibilities.

Library of Parliament

Library of Parliament

Logo of the Library of Parliament.

Established in 1906, the Library of Parliament serves as Parliament's research library and is the world's 9th largest library housing over 30 million books and multimedia items. Since its founding, the library has expanded with four basement floors, additional on-site and off-site buildings, and a botanical garden. The main library located at the Hiram Johnson Building is accessible to the public 24/7 although all of its books and materials may only be checked out by members of Parliament, top government officials, and other security cleared persons. The library hosts numerous programs promoting literacy and encouraging education nationwide. In addition, the Library is responsible for authorizing, cataloging, processing, and maintaining copyrights, patents, and requests. Several provincial libraries throughout the Kingdom are officially affiliated with the Library of Parliament network and collaborates with both public and private educational institutions.

Parliament Police

The Parliament Police is responsible for protecting members and buildings of the Parliament, managing traffic, and investigating any crimes committed on parliamentary grounds. The legislative equivalent to the Secret Service, Parliament Police exercises jurisdiction throughout the Kingdom when accompanying parliament members and fulfilling their duties. Working alongside Porciúncula Police Department officers, Parliament Police exercises concurrent jurisdiction of a ten-mile radius around Parliament Building and exclusive jurisdiction within the grounds. Officers also have jurisdiction throughout the city-county of Porciúncula to take law enforcement action whenever they observe or are called to action of a crime while on active duty. About 2,200 officers are enlisted as of October 2014.

Parliamentary Research Center

The Parliamentary Research Center is a public policy think tank that functions within the Library of Parliament as a federal agency. Responsible for researching and analyzing national issues and policies, the Center has in recent years, expanded its reach in reporting and analyzing federal spending (especially that of Parliament's) and promoting government transparency through the monitoring and evaluating Parliament's activities. The Center employs over 3,000 people and releases over 100,000 pages of research information annually.

Lobbying

Lobbyists and advocacy groups exert immense influence on Parliament who represent a multitude of varied and often conflicting clients and interests including corporations, lobbyists are usually hired professional lawyers or workers who seek to persuade members of certain committees to draft and pass legislation beneficial for the lobbyist's client. Despite being heavily integrated into the Sierran political culture (a vital component of the "iron triangle"), lobbying is heavily criticized and controversial, with Parliament has taken major steps to control and tighten the extent of lobbying. The lobbying industry is a $6 billion industry and is projected to continue to grow.

Procedure

In both houses, motions were traditionally determined by voice vote. This practice was replaced in 2008 with the introduction of an electronic voting system wherein members input their votes through a secure network access and results delivered to the proctor (usually the speaker). Once calculating the votes, the speaker declares whether the motion has passed or failed. Considered the final word, the speaker may, upon his/her own discretion, call for a re-count whereby re-voting must take place to address any contentions to the original result. In committees and subcommittees where the size of the voting body is considerably smaller, the traditional voice vote or roll call voting method is used.

Sessions

A legislative year is divided into sessions which coincide with one calendar year. A new session occurs every October 16 following a legislative prorogation where all old bills, motions, and deliberations expire and are expunged and must be proposed again in the new session. Coinciding with newly elected members, the purpose of sessions is to ensure that newer members are able to vote on the most current issues and bills relevant to the new year.

Joint sessions

Joint sessions are special circumstantial occasions where both houses convene together on the same floor to vote on a concurrent resolution. Traditionally, a joint session meeting occurs at the House floor. The most prominent joint session meeting is the annual State of the Kingdom speech delivered by the monarch or his/her delegate (usually the prime minister) held around December. Other times when joint sessions are called are when foreign dignitaries are invited to speak before Parliament or when the prime minister delivers his/her inaugural speech. Joint sessions are also held to celebrate or commemorate the passing of particularly significant legislation (i.e., an amendment) following an assent from the monarch.

Bills and resolutions

All forms of legislation first begin off as bills and go through the stages of parliamentary review. Contrary to popular belief, anyone may draft a bill so long as they are a citizen of Sierra at age. Most bills are actually devised by executive government officials or lobbyists who forward their ideas to a responsible member in Parliament. These members are called sponsors and send the draft to an accountant who then relays it to the responsible committee within the house. When assigned to a committee, that committee then study, review, and modify the bill as they deem fit. If approved by the committee, the bill is sent to the floor and introduced by a sponsor. There, the bill is openly read, discussed, and debated across the floor before a motion is set.

If the motion passes (usually by simple majority), the bill is sent to the other house where it must begin again at the committee level and go through the same steps. If the bill is passed by both houses, the bill is sent to a joint committee which reviews and revises any differences between both houses' versions of the bill. After the differences have been settled, the bill becomes enrolled and is sent to the monarch who must grant royal assent in order for the bill to pass. If the monarch refuses to give assent (thus, as a veto), the bill must receive approval from two-thirds of both houses to override the monarch's veto. If the monarch gives assent or does not take action within 14 business days, the bill automatically becomes law and is codified.

There are several forms of "bills" that can be proposed in Parliament:

  • Bills: The standard bill is a law in the process of creation. Bills are typically assigned a number usually corresponding with its house, committee, and date. A bill from House of Commons reads "H." while one from Senate reads "S.".
  • Joint resolutions: Although joint resolutions are indistinguishable from bills, it is generally understood and practiced that joint resolutions are bills that authorize minor appropriations, approve temporary government bodies or ad hoc commissions, creating exceptions or exemptions in existing law, and proposing amendments. Joint resolutions' names begin with either "H.J.Res." (from House of Commons) or "S.J.Res" (from Senate).
  • Concurrent resolutions: Bills that concern both houses although do not require the explicit assent of the monarch. Resolutions from House begins with "H.Con.Res." while those from Senate with "S.Con.Res."
  • Simple resolutions: Bills that concern only one house. Resolutions from House begins with "H.Res." while those from Senate with "S.Res."
  • Special resolutions: Bills that are indistinguishable from standard bills or resolutions but which connote the bill's nature of urgency and importance. Bills marked with these are often marked during times of crises and emergency wherein their review is considered top-priority and takes immediate precedence over other bills. Such bills originating from House begin with "H.S.Res." while those from Senate with "S.S.Res.".

Privileges and salary

Franked Mail in Sierra

An example of mail that has been franked and used by a member of Parliament.

Members of Parliament enjoy protection with parliamentary privilege including the foremost privilege of absolute freedom of speech under the Speech and Debate Clause, freedom from arrest except in the cases of treason, felony, or breach of the peace (including violent attacks in Parliament). These immunities apply only when a member is attending or traveling to and from a session held in Parliament. While members cannot be sued for slander or libel in court for things they have said while in session, both houses have strict regulatory rules on offensive and libelous speech and have their own means of disciplinary action to reprimand offenders including censuring. Obstruction of the work of Parliament is considered contempt of Parliament and is treated as a crime punishable up to a year in prison.

While in office, members enjoy franking privilege which allows them to send official mail to constituents at the expense of the government. There are restrictions on what the topic of the mail may be; for instance, members may not use their franking privilege to send mail related to elections (this to prevent incumbent members from having a significantly unfair advantage over challenging electoral candidates).

In addition to their privileges, members enjoy free office spaces no more than a walk's reach from Parliament Building, free government-paid staff, and access to various exclusive facilities on parliamentary grounds. Working in Parliament, especially those in the Senate, are almost privileged with the presence of prominent Sierran officials including monarch and prime minister both of whom are constitutionally obligated to appear at Parliament on at least several occasions throughout the year. House members enjoy a salary between $53,000–$120,000 while senators enjoy a much larger salary of $65,000–$145,000. Senior officials and officers receive higher pays which increase based on experience and contributions. Alongside pay, all members are enrolled in the federal healthcare and retirement plan although members must still pay for their insurance in other fields. They also must pay taxes although they receive a substantial amount of tax deduction as workers of civil service. Expenses for travels on official business are also paid for by the government at taxpayers' expense although members may be fined for excessive or gross spending considered irrelevant to their work.

Public image

Throughout its history, public view of Parliament has fluctuated based on its performance and the number of meaningful legislation passed in a given legislative year. Issues including partisan politics and aggressive parliamentary tactics such as filibuster have brought forth serious criticisms from the public and media. In contemporary times, activities and actions undertaken by parliament members have been increasingly scrutinized and members caught in scandals often have their careers and images permanently destroyed if found in the wrong. While when polled, the public gave Parliament a rating around a 35% approval rating, the same respondents often gave much more favorable views to their own representatives or senators.

The perception that Parliament is inefficient and does little work gave rise to the fact that fierce partisanship led to severe gridlock during the 1990s when the political sphere went from bipartisan to tripartisan thanks to the Libertarians. Today, seats from both houses are almost evenly distributed between the three main parties: the Democratic-Republicans, the Royalists, and the Libertarians. As of the 78th Parliament, the Royalists have a slight majority in both houses although it has been contended that the Libertarians, while having the least seats in both house, exercise the clear advantage over Parliament because their positions encompass ideals from both Royalists and Democratic-Republicans. When given economic issues, Libertarians often voted with Royalists while on social issues, they voted with Democratic-Republicans demonstrating the power and influence of this once-third party. This fact has at times forced the Democratic-Republicans and Royalists to form a compromise bill that countered or negated the Libertarians' and often delayed action on session through filibusters and other methods.

During election season, members resort to campaigning to win the vote from their constituents. Often times, this includes negative advertising with attack ads and smear campaigning that airs daily on large national broadcast channels and syndicates.

Legislative violence

The volatility of campaign elections and partisanship have brought negative perceptions of Parliament and its member who view the site as a political battleground where infighting is frequent. Indeed, on the floor, partisan differences and personal resentment for each other has led to bloody confrontations and brawls. Throughout its years, Parliament has had several incidents where members resorted to open physical contact. In 1947, two representatives, disputing over a public works bill, began brawling and rendered one unconscious who had to be rushed to the hospital. Both were censured and removed from Parliament following the incident. In 1897, Senator William Humphreys from San Francisco brought a pistol to the Senate floor and shot two of his political enemies: John Walker of San Francisco and James Philips of Kings. Humphreys held a private grudge towards the two as well as disagreed heavily with their conflicting views and interests. Humphreys was immediately arrested and later sentenced to death by hanging. There are severe consequences for members who commit violence which almost always include removal from office. In 2012, Terry Mudfield, a representative elected from the Inland Empire, went up and punched House Speaker Aaron Hewitz once before being apprehended by Parliament Police and fellow peers. After revealing that he only sought office on the premise to attack Hewitz among others whom Mudfield held serious distaste mainly on the issue of gay rights, Mudfield was charged with assault and battery as well as contempt of Parliament and sentenced to five years in prison. Although uncommon, members, especially those in the House of Commons, have often complained on the aggressive and heated environment. Some spoke of being "shoved", "scuffled about", or "gestured". Female legislators have also complained about wanton sexual advances or unnecessary physical contact by fellow peers, complaints which have always been heavily and closely investigated. All these incidents have a deep residual effect on the perception by the public as such acts perpetrate the fact that Parliament is unsafe and unprofessional. The number of incidents have drastically subsided over the years although memorably imposing cases have all the more given a blow to Parliament's overall prestige as a respectable governmental institution. The Senate and House Committee of the Whole are the two bodies that investigate and punish any members who commit criminal acts while on the floor.

See also

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