AP Comparative Government
Iran Country Study
Section I: Les Regles de Jeu
- Constitutional Structure – Iran’s Constitution was adopted in 1980. It specifically outlines Iran as an Islamic Republic. This means the nation has popular elected Legislative and Executive branches, an established Judicial branch, which is allowed to interpret the Constitution and declare acts of Parliament, the Majlis, unconstitutional. The Constitution, further, requires the government to take place in the market, calling for three distinct sectors: the state, the cooperative and the private. Thus, the government in Iran is required by their constitution to own, or at least partially take a role in, certain sectors of the economy. Currently, Iran has an extensive Social Security network, consisting mostly of pensions for workers.
- Electoral Systems – The government of Iran has elections for most of its political institutions: the Majlis, the President, and the Assembly of Experts. In the Majlis, 290 members are elected by popular vote to serve a 4-year term. The President is elected by popular vote to serve a 4-year term. These bodies, in turn, elect candidates or verify appointments for three other institutions: the Guardian Council, the Cabinet, and the Supreme Leader. However, much power rests in the hands of the Supreme Leader who appoints the Judicial leadership and the expediency council, while approving the members of the Guardian Council. For example, another office, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, is appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts.
- Legislative Process – Anyone may draft a bill however, only members of Congress can introduce legislation, and by doing so become the sponsors. There are four basic types of legislation: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. The official legislative process begins when a bill or resolution is numbered, referred to a committee, and printed by the Government Printing Office.
- First, bills are referred to standing committees in the House or Senate according to carefully delineated rules of procedure.
- When a bill reaches a committee it is placed on the committee's calendar. A bill can be referred to a subcommittee or considered by the committee as a whole. It is at this point that a bill is examined carefully and its chances for passage are determined. If the committee does not act on a bill, it is the equivalent of killing it.
- Often, bills are referred to a subcommittee for study and hearings. Hearings provide the opportunity to put on the record the views of the executive branch, experts, other public officials, supporters and opponents of the legislation. Testimony can be given in person or submitted as a written statement.
- When the hearings are completed, the subcommittee may meet to "mark up" the bill, that is, make changes and amendments prior to recommending the bill to the full committee. If a subcommittee votes not to report legislation to the full committee, the bill dies.
- After receiving a subcommittee's report on a bill, the full committee can conduct further study and hearings, or it can vote on the subcommittee's recommendations and any proposed amendments. The full committee then votes on its recommendation to the House or Senate. This procedure is called "ordering a bill reported."
- After a committee votes to have a bill reported, the committee chairman instructs staff to prepare a written report on the bill. This report describes the intent and scope of the legislation, impact on existing laws and programs, position of the executive branch, and views of dissenting members of the committee.
- After a bill is reported back to the chamber where it originated, it is placed in chronological order on the calendar. In the House there are several different legislative calendars, and the Speaker and majority leader largely determine if, when, and in what order bills come up. In the Senate there is only one legislative calendar.
- When a bill reaches the floor of the House or Senate, there are rules or procedures governing the debate on legislation. These rules determine the conditions and amount of time allocated for general debate.
- After the debate and the approval of any amendments, the bill is passed or defeated by the members voting.
- When a bill is passed by the House or the Senate it is referred to the other chamber where it usually follows the same route through committee and floor action. This chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or change it.
- If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, it is common for the legislation to go back to the first chamber for concurrence. However, when the actions of the other chamber significantly alter the bill, a conference committee is formed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. If the conferees are unable to reach agreement, the legislation dies. If agreement is reached, a conference report is prepared describing the committee members’ recommendations for changes. Both the House and the Senate must approve of the conference report.
- After a bill has been approved by both the House and Senate in identical form, it is sent to the President. If the President approves of the legislation he/she signs it and it becomes law. Or, the President can take no action for ten days, while Congress is in session, and it automatically becomes law. If the President opposes the bill he/she can veto it; or, if he/she takes no action after the Congress has adjourned its second session, it is a "pocket veto" and the legislation dies.
- If the President vetoes a bill, Congress may attempt to "override the veto." This requires a two thirds roll call vote of the members who are present in sufficient numbers for a quorum.