The Republic of Colombia is a unitary republic, governed by representatives of the people, who are elected through direct vote. The three branches of governmental power are the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The 1991 Constitution is the source and origin of all laws and it overrides them all. The legislative power is vested in a bicameral Congress composed of a Senate, with 102 members, and a House of Representatives with 163 members. Senators and Representatives are elected to four year-terms and may be re-elected for indefinite terms. The last elections for Congress took place in March 2014, and the next election will be in 2018.
Bills are usually submitted to the Secretariat of either chamber of Congress. The bill is first published in the Congressional Gazette and then assigned to one of seven standing committees by subject matter. The president of each committee assigns one or more members to act as bill sponsors and present a report to the committee (also published in the Congressional Gazette).The bill is then debated, amended, voted on and, if approved, submitted to the plenary of each chamber. The bill is assigned one or more sponsors in the plenary session where again it will be debated. The chamber may decide to send the bill back to the committee whenever its text becomes significantly different from the one originally submitted. Once the bill is approved by one chamber, it will undergo the same process in other chamber. The standing committees of each chamber may be called upon by the President of the Republic to debate a bill jointly for reasons of urgency.
Once approved by Congress, the bill is submitted to the President who may object to it for reasons of convenience or constitutionality. Objections by reasons of constitutionality are submitted to the Constitutional Court. If both chambers, by simple majority votes, override the President’s objections for reasons of convenience, or if the Court dismisses objections for reasons of constitutionality, the President is required to sanction and enact the bill as law. Promulgation of a law takes place by its publication in the Official Gazette and its entry into force takes place at that time or on the date indicated in the statute.
The structure of Government and the supreme set of norms are provided by the Constitution. Congress in turn approves laws with varying hierarchy that in all cases must be consistent with the Constitution. Most statutes are ordinary laws. International treaties duly ratified by Congress also have the status of law. The Constitution grants the President regulatory power to issue decrees, resolutions, directives and orders that must conform to existing laws. Decrees and Resolutions are usually issued and enforced by the government ministries and agencies.