Brazil’s legislature is represented by a bicameral parliament, the National Congress, composed of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 513 Members of Parliament (MPs), elected for four-year terms. The most recent elections for the Chamber of Deputies took place in 2014, with the next due in 2018. The Senate has 81 Members, elected for eight-year terms. Elections are staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and the remaining one-third four years later. Last elections for the Senate took place in 2010 and 2014, and the next elections are due in 2018 and 2022.
The 1988 Constitution outlines how laws may be proposed. The legislative process may be initiated by any member or committee of the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate; the President of the Republic; the Supreme Federal Court; the Superior Courts; the Attorney-General of the Republic; and the citizens.
Each Chamber has its independent legislative process, passing laws that fall under their specific competences. If a bill is proposed by the Senate, it will be send to the Chamber of Deputies to be revised and vice-versa. Traditionally, the Senate acts more as a reviser than as an author. All bills go through thematic committees; some of the bills do not need to go through plenary, that is, the power of the commission is terminative. The Senate has 11 permanent thematic committees, including the Committee on Environment, Consumer Protection and Auditing and Control. In some areas a proposal must undergo the legislative process in both Chambers simultaneously. There is a permanent and mixed (2 houses) Committee on Climate Change.
Legislation is presented at the Parliament in a process that entails three phases. First, the Constitution and Justice Committee assesses the constitutionality of the proposal, secondly, the text is scrutinised by one or more substantively relevant committees, where the merit of the proposed text is assessed. Finally, the legislation is discussed and voted in the plenary sessions of the congress. With the exception of legislation that modify the constitution, the approval of a law proposal requires simple majority of votes.
After the National Congress’s deliberations, the President of the Republic may sanction or veto the proposition. In the first case, the project becomes a law. In the case of a veto, the project is sent back to Congress. The enactment by the President attests the existence of a new law. After the enactment, the next step is publication, which is intended to inform citizens of the existence and contents of a certain normative act. Publication has the additional purpose of determining the date on which the law will come into effect.