Introduction into the German law system - Organisation of the state

The Federal Republic of Germany consists of 16 federal states (Länder). These have part-sovereignty and can enact their own laws in certain fields of legislation. The state ‘s authority can be subdivided into the legislative power, the judicial power and the executive power. These powers are independent from each other and exist both on the level of the Federation and on the level of the states. The states have the power of legislation, but for certain areas of legislation the Federation may have an additional or exclusive power of legislation. On the level of the Federation, the national parliament – the Bundestag – decides about new legislation with a simple majority. New laws have to be accepted by the federal council, the Bundesrat, too, which is the representation of the states. The President of Germany (Bundespräsident) afterwards signs the new law. He has the right to refuse if in his opinion it is in conflict with the constitution. By publication in the federal paper (Bundesanzeiger) the new law comes into force. For some laws it is sufficient if there are no objections from the federal council. Changes in the constitution itself can only be obtained by a majority of two thirds of both Bundestag / parliament and Bundesrat / council. This process has taken place in some cases until now. In 1998, for example, article 13 of the Basic Law was changed in order to allow a wider form of eavesdropping on homes and phones of suspects in cases of serious crimes. These actions require an order by a judge.

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