Landtag Nordrhein-Westfalen



State and Federal Government

What is the difference between State and Federal Government in Germany?

The competence of legislation is split between the 16 State Parliaments (Landtage) and the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag). For all matters which directly affect the Federal Republic (Bund) as a whole - such as foreign and defense policy, currency issues, atomic policy, the postal and telecommunications services - the Bundestag in Berlin has sole and exclusive power to legislate. In these areas, the German states (Länder), are involved in legislation only through a second chamber, the Bundesrat. The Landtage on the other hand, are responsible for all cultural matters, notably the education system, matters of internal security, i.e. the police, building supervision, health supervision and the media.

Such a clear delimitation of policy areas into the competence of either the Länder or the Bund, however, applies to only a few areas. The vast majority of legislative matters are subject to what is known as 'concurrent legislation': The Landtag may enact laws, but only as long as it is provided that the Bundestag does not make use of its right to legislate. If safeguarding a legal or economic entity or producing living standards of equal value in Germany require a federal approach, the national legislature takes action. The same applies for criminal law and the penal system, commercial and employment law, and transport and waste disposal. The German constitution (Grundgesetz) lists the areas of concurrent legislation. At the same time, the constitution names those areas for which the Bund provides a framework law (Rahmengesetz). With this, the Bundestag marks out the boundaries within which the Landtage may then pass laws autonomously, for instance, regarding the higher education system or environmental protection.



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