Legislation – What Is It?

Legislation refers to the enactments or laws passed by the legislative body. A law is a rule that governs the conduct of a state organization or government. Legislation can be general, specifying duties and/or privileges of citizens, general empowering specified bodies, and specific empowering specified tribunals or parties. It can also include procedural law. Legislation can affect many areas of public life including taxation, naturalization, trusts, estates, and licensing.


“Legislature” is not synonymous with “law” as commonly conceived. Legisprudence refers to the applications of law from the statutory enactments. An example of Legislation in practice is regulatory legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) or the Clean Air Act. These are examples of regulatory legislation.

The United States Congress, since our nation’s founding, has increasingly been the source for national legislation. Federal legislation imposes laws on states through the regulation and control of interstate commerce. Some types of national legislation are the Necessary and Proper Clause Acts, concurrent powers, constitutional law, war power, property taxation, tariffs, and other statutes. Congress has exercised its power to enact legislation concerning banking, interstate commerce, immigration, naturalization, trusts, and numerous other issues.

All legislation refers to laws that specify how things should be done. Legislation is an enacted rule that affects the conduct of a state organization or government. A bill must pass both Houses of the legislative body responsible to issue the law. A bill is then presented to the States affected by the legislation for review and approval or rejection.

Regulations are intended to further the objects of the legislation. Regulations differ from acts because they are adopted by the administrative authorities rather than by the legislature. A regulation may affect private action, but it cannot affect the actions of the legislature. Regulations are issued by regulatory agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Department of Agriculture, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A regulation is required to be uniform and consistent with the applicable federal law.

Subordinate Legislation refers to a law passed by the legislature that seeks to govern certain activities other than those governed by the legislature. The purposes of subordinate legislation are not to protect individual rights, but to protect the interests of the state. For example, the legislature may adopt a law concerning taxation that attempts to prevent certain individuals from acting on behalf of their fellow citizens. Both Houses of Congress must approve any subordinate legislation.