The Imperial Parliament

The legislative power of the Shine and Wild Empire, the country with which the Shine Cycle is most concerned, is vested in the Imperial Parliament, containing two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Peers.

The Imperial Parliament developed from the Parliament of the Sunshine Kingdom, and will diminish to that body again if the Empire is ever dissolved, but (unlike some bodies with a similar history) it is not simply the Sunshine Kingdom’s Parliament with additional members for the other countries in the Empire; it is a derived but distinct body.

I’ll talk a bit more about how the Parliament is elected in a couple of weeks. But for now, let it suffice to say that there are several levels of districts (like municipalities, counties, Congressional districts, and states here in the United States), some of which overlap, in each country in the Empire. Most of these districts send representatives to the House of Commons—“most” because, to reduce the size of the body to a more reasonable number, the lowest level or two of districts is not directly represented as such. And any district whose representative has been ennobled is not represented in the Commons until he or she dies, resigns, or moves to another district. (On the other hand, someone who has been recognized as nobility by the federal government of the Empire, but not by making his or her elective position permanent for life, may stand for Parliament and serve in the Commons while their constituents keep them there.)

The House of Peers consists of ennobled district representatives and executives, plus a few individuals granted “at large” nobility by Parliamentary vote and royal consent. And there are a very few districts that are traditionally represented in the peerage. (Some districts in some nations of the Empire have hereditary seats in those nations’ peerages, but these districts’ hereditary leaders must at least be confirmed by their districts to be seated in the Imperial House of Peers.)

Because the Parliament of the Sunshine Kingdom was originally so small (especially its peerage), the tradition developed that the Parliament sits in joint session, with bills usually passed immediately from one house to the other as needed. This tradition has continued in the Imperial Parliament, even though it is several times larger, but committees (as one might expect, joint committees are traditional) are often (not always! or even usually) used to reduce the workload of the full legislature.

From the House of Peers the King selects a “Bench of Nobles,” a sort of “upper house for the upper house,” whose membership is confirmed by their peers and may be vetoed by the Commons. They have strong powers of oversight over the rest of the legislature and the government as a whole; these powers are vested in the Bench rather than in the House of Peers because in the early days, when there were a few hereditary titles of nobility in the Sunshine Kingdom, some corrupt peers abused their powers. The Bench also traditionally has the right to propose new at-large members of the peerage (the most common title awarded is “Prince at large” or “Princess at large,” since at-large titles don’t include a demesne whose size would determine the title), though this is not in fact restricted to them by force of law or by legislative rule.

The legislature is led by the Speaker of the House of Commons, who is elected by and from that house and confirmed by consent from the King and the Bench of Nobles. In his absence, or if he enters debate or sponsors or seconds a motion, a Speaker pro tem serves in his place. On the rare occasions when the House of Peers meets separately, or if there’s a dispute in the legislature, the peerage is led by the Chairman of the Bench.

The Parliament has the power to set government budgets, propose taxes (tariffs, which must be approved by a committee of the Council of Ministers, and direct taxes, which must be approved by a majority of the districts from which they would be levied), declare war, confirm and impeach Ministers and its own members (confirmation votes by the Commons are advisory only unless the peerage is smaller than a specified minimum size; impeachment proceedings begin in the Commons or the body to which the member does not belong, and are tried in the House of Peers or by the other body), and so on.

All votes to approve bills are always made by recorded voice vote. (Applied metaphysics is helpful in recording an exhaustive list of who said “Aye” or “Nay” when prompted …) Some classes of minor motions may, at the Speaker’s discretion, be made by acclamation, but most procedural motions must also be made by recorded voice vote, by roll call vote, or by signed written ballot, unless a motion allowing them to be made by acclamation or secret ballot is passed using one of the recorded voting forms.

Any questions or comments about the Imperial legislature?


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