Liberia has a bicameral Legislature that comprises the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the first branch of the Liberian government and it is responsible for creating the laws that govern the nation. The Legislature represents the Liberian population in the national government. It oversees the functions of the Executive and Judiciary Branches in order to ensure a balance of power.
The first session of the Legislature in 1848 had 6 senators and 8 representatives from the 3 counties at the time of independence. The current Legislature has 30 senators and 73 representatives from all 15 counties. Each chamber of the Legislature is divided into committees and subcommittees with various functions.
Information on the powers and duties of the Legislature is in Chapter V of the Liberian Constitution. Some of the responsibilities of the Legislature include creating counties and other subdivisions, levying taxes and trade regulations, creating election laws, establishing laws for citizenship and residence, providing security for the nation, and approving international treaties.
The Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Monrovia is home to the Liberian Legislature.
Functions of the Legislature
The main role of the Legislature is making the laws of the nation. This body creates new laws and modifies existing ones. It is also charged with reviewing laws that are introduced by the Executive and with approving the national budget that is proposed by the Executive.
All bills must be separately passed by both houses and sent to the President for approval before they become law. The President can approve and sign a legislation into law or veto and return it to the house where it originated.
As representatives of the people, lawmakers should ensure that policies and laws are beneficial to their constituents. It is their duty to ensure that citizens are knowledgeable about new and existing laws and how these affect them.
Their responsibility as representatives is to guarantee that their constituents have input into the government’s decisions and policies. Their votes and decisions should reflect the needs and wishes of the people that they represent.
The Legislature ensures that the policies and actions of the Executive are in accordance with the law. Using various measures including hearings and information requests, it monitors government programs, policies, and agencies so that their duties are effectively implemented and managed.
The Senate confirms nominees for Executive agencies and for the Judiciary. The Legislature can also override a bill that the President has vetoed. It has the power to impeach the President and the judges and to remove them from office.
Eligibility and Oath of Office
A Liberian citizen of at least 25 years of age is eligible to run for the House of Representatives, and at age 30 for the Senate. A candidate must have lived in the country for at least one year and paid taxes. Before assuming office, each member is sworn in and affirms to upload and defend the constitution and faithfully perform the duties assigned to his/her office.
Citizens of Liberia who meet the following qualifications are eligible to become members of the Legislature.
a) for the Senate, have attained the age of 30 years and for the House of Representatives, have attained the age of 25 years;
b) be domiciled in the country or constituency to be represented not less than one year prior to the time of the election and be a taxpayer.
Each member of the Legislature, before taking his seat and entering upon the duties of office, shall take and subscribe to a solemn oath of affirmation, before the presiding officer of the House to which such person was elected and in the presence of other members of that House, to uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic and to discharge faithfully the duties of such office.
The Vice President of Liberia serves as Head of the Senate. He/she chairs its deliberations and votes only in case of a tie. Every six years the senators elect a Senate Pro Tempore to serve as its temporary chief administrator. This person presides over the Senate in the Vice President’s absence.
The Senate has specific powers like approving cabinet, judicial, county officials and other executive appointments. It also ratifies all international treaties and agreements. This body hears all impeachment trials, even though bills of impeachment originate in the House of Representatives. An official is impeached with a vote of 2/3 of the Senators.
House of Representatives
The Speaker of the House presides over the affairs of the House and is elected every six years by the members of the House. When both Houses are in a joint session, the Speaker of the House, or its presiding officer, chairs the joint session. If the President and Vice President are removed from office, the Speaker will assume the presidency until elections are held to fill those vacancies.
An Act to Amend Certain Provisions of the 1986 Elections Law. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liberia. Monrovia. 15 Dec. 2014.
Bruetz, Iris. Handbook on Legislation and Law Drafting for the Republic of Liberia. Hamburg/Monrovia. Mar. 2006.
Guannu, Joseph S. Liberian Civics. Monrovia: Herald Publishing, 2004. Print.
How Our Laws are Made: Understanding the Legislative Process. 52nd Legislature of Liberia, Joint Legislative Modernization Committee.
Legislature of Liberia Website. Republic of Liberia. Web.
Liberia Elections Commission Website. Republic of Liberia. Web.
The Liberian Constitutions. Onliberia. The Liberian Collections Project, Indiana University. 2004. Web.
Wilson, Charles Morrow. Liberia. W. Sloane Associates, 1947. Print.