Bundesrat (Federal Council)

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Bundesrat, meaning the Federal Council of Germany, is the representation of 16 German states (lands). It seats in Berlin, at the former Prussian House of Lords (Herrenhaus). It is the place where individual lands (Länder) participate on the legislation and administration of Germany. Bundesrat is an additional legislation organ alongside the Federal Parliament. The legislative authority of the Bundesrat is subordinate to that of the Bundestag, but the upper house nonetheless plays a vital legislative role.

The members are not appointed by the electorate but by the Land governments. Each land has a given number of representatives in Bundesrat, depending on the number of inhabitants of the land. Each land has at least three votes (Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland). When there are more than two million inhabitants in the land, it has four votes (Berlin, Brandenburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia). Lands with more than six million inhabitants have five (Hesse) and those with over seven million inhabitants have six votes (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia). Together, there are 96 members.

The chairperson of the Bundesrat is its President (Bundesratspräsident). The presidency rotates annually among the minister-presidents of each of the federal lands. The President of the Bundesrat convenes and chairs plenary sessions of the body and is formally responsible for representing the Federal Republic in the Bundesrat. Generally, the plenary sessions are held one Friday per months at 9.30 am, with an interruption in August. The voting Bundesrat delegates themselves rarely attend committee sessions; instead, they delegate that responsibility to civil servants from their ministries, as allowed for in the Basic Law. The delegates tend to spend most of their time in their state capitals, rather than in the federal capital.

Bundersrat was founded in 1871 and with a few-year break (1919 – 1934 when it was replaced by Reichsrat, and then still being Reichsrat until 1949) it exists until now.
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