Legislative Branch: how it is structured.
Of the sources of legislation, there are only two distinct means; one being the U.S. congress: federal, and the other being state level legislature, respectively. On both the federal and state level, the process for legislation is of little variance. Therefore, we will pay no special interest to one or the other but instead speak generally.
The legislative branch is setup as a bicameral system. This means we have two distinct bodies which rule on legislation. The opposite of a bicameral system is a unicameral system, which simply means the government would have one ruling body rather than two when it comes to matters of legislation. It should be noted, most governments do indeed abide by a unicameral system (59%), and so their legislation undergoes a different process than that of the U.S. bicameral system. Moreover, within the U.S., the legislative branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. These two bodies form what is known as the U.S. congress.
The legislative branch is created by ARTICLE I of the constitution, of which consists of 10 sections that clarify: the separation of powers, the structure of the legislative branch, the means by which representatives are elected, how laws are to be created, and the power which congress has. For instance, the congress has vested in them the capacity to pass legislation which achieves congressional objectives, so long as those laws are constitutional, facilitate the orderly operation of the government, and will protect the constitutional rights of the citizens.
The House of Representatives is composed of 435 members divided amongst 50 states in proportion to their populace, and the senate is composed of 100 members that are likewise divided amongst the states. The members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, and the members of senate are also elected, though members of senate can serve 6-year-terms.
The Purpose of Legislation: why we have laws
Legislation has as its purpose the goal of either bearing onto others a habit of behaviour or restricting from others some habit of behaviour; all laws can be characterized as such. For instance, if a man once drove freely on the road by habit, then any law which dictates where one can or cannot drive is a restriction of his habit; and at the same time, such a law would necessarily bear onto his shoulders the new habit of driving more orderly. Thus, the goal of a law is to impact some mode of conduct, presumably for the better.
Hence, much of legislation can be readily characterized as procedural, protective, or remedial. Procedural legislation ensures that the habits of bureaucracy or similar administrative duties bring about efficiency and effectiveness; protective legislation ensures that the habits of the citizens and government alike are in accordance with a set of standards dictated by a sovereign body; remedial legislation ensures that our laws, if demonstrated to bring about ineffective habits, are altered or changed for the better. These categories of legislation have a significant influence over the habits of society.
Legislative Process: how laws are created
A bill, when first introduced, must have a sponsor within the senate and must be presented to the House of Representatives. In some cases, the bill has to first be introduced to the senate before it can be brought to the House of Representatives. After the bill has been introduced and has gained sponsorship, it will be assigned to a committee to be researched and discussed further.
After being thoroughly researched, the bill returns to either the House of Representatives or Senate to be voted on and debated; the bill has to be dealt with by both bodies. Usually, as a result of debate, both bodies will have slightly nuanced versions of the bill, and so these differences need to be settled before the bill can be passed along to be signed into law.
Once congress comes to a majority conclusion on the issue, the bill is sent to the president for final approval. The president has one of two options; he can either sign the bill (agree to it) or veto the bill (refuse to sign). If the president decides to veto the bill, then congress does has the power to overrule the veto, though only if congress has not yet adjourned.