The Landtag - Role and Functions
The Landtag is the land (i.e. state) parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate. It is situated in Mainz - the land capital. The Landtag is made up of 101 elected representatives of the people. They represent the entire population of the land, act according to their own conscience, and are not bound by any directives.
Since the beginning of the 12th Landtag in 1991, its legislative term has been increased to 5 years. The members of the Landtag elect a President from among their own ranks, as well as four Vice-Presidents and the secretaries for the duration of the legislative term.
The 2016 elected 17th Landtag consists of five parliamentary groups (SPD, CDU, AfD, FDP, BÜNDNID 90/DIE GRÜNEN).
Legislative and Elective Functions of the Landtag
Beside the election of the Prime Minister and the approval of Ministers, other important duties of the Landtag include legislation and the monitoring of the government and the administration.
Legislation is, however, only one aspect of the overall work of the parliament. The many elective functions include the election of the Prime Minister, who is elected without prior debate. After the Prime Minister has appointed his Ministers, the government requires the express confirmation of the Landtag before it can commence business. The Landtag is entitled to withdraw its confidence from Ministers. In addition, the Landtag also elects the members of the Land Constitutional Court, which monitors observance of the Land Constitution.
One of the most important parliamentary rights is the right to approve the budget. All income and expenditure of the Land has to be included in the budget plan. The budget plan is drawn up in line with the Budget Act. The budget plan has to be submitted to the Landtag for discussion and approval.
A further important duty of the Landtag is the parliamentary monitoring of the Land (i.e. state) government; the executive branch. To this end, the parliament has a number of monitoring instruments at its disposal, some of which can be activated by individual members, others only by parliamentary groups or at least eight members.
The individual members can monitor the work of the Land government by means of written and oral questions.
Whereas written questions are replied to in writing, oral questions can be used to demand explanations and statements from the Land government in plenary session. Oral questions may be followed by debate.
The following important monitoring option can only be initiated by a motion of a parliamentary group or by at least eight deputies:
- Outside the context of the legislative process, the Landtag can exercise an influence on political developments through resolutions by requesting the Land government to take certain measures, to bring in certain bills or to develop planning concepts.
- Interpellations are normally aimed at monitoring the political course adopted by the government in questions of fundamental importance; interpellations, therefore, concern problems of particular political significance. These interpellations are replied to in writing by the Land government. If a coresponding motion is introduced, both question and answer are discussed in a Landtag session or in an open committee meeting.
- The so-called "topical hour" is used to debate on a political topic of general current interest in plenary session of the Landtag. It was introduced to make parliamentary work more lively and to ensure that an opportunity was provided to discuss questions of immediate importance.
The Landtag administration supports the President of the Landtag in all internal affairs, for example by helping to organize plenary sessions and committee meetings, by non partisan legislative and reference services etc. Head of administration is the Secretary General (Direktorin) of the Landtag.