• The Legislative Branch

    You know that in a representative democracy the people have a voice in the making of their laws. Voters in our country elect people to represent and to serve as their voice in the law making process. Laws are made by the men and women who are elected to Congress by the voters of each state.

    Congress is made up of two houses, just the way most of the state legislatures are made up. The upper house is called the Senate, and the lower house is called the House of Representatives. Men and women who belong to the House of Representatives are called representatives. They may also be called congressmen or congresswomen.

    The number of senators in Congress is spelled out in the Constitution. Under the Constitution, each state has two senators. However, the number of representatives a state has depends on the population of the state. Every state must have at least one representative though. Law now sets the total number of representatives at 435. This means that as the population changes in a state, so does the number of representatives that state is allowed to have. But the total must not change! Therefore, as some states gain representatives, other states may lose representatives.

    Each of the fifty states elects two men or women to the Senate of the United States. These senators stay in office for six years. Then they must try to get elected again if they want to stay in the Senate.

    The number of representatives a state sends to the House of Representatives depends on how many people live in the state. Representatives stay in office for only two years. If they want to stay in the House of Representatives, they must run for reelection every two years.

    Congress meets in Washington D.C., the capital city of the United States. "D.C." stands for the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia is not a state. It is not in a state, either. It is a district which acts like a combination of a city and state. The District of Columbia is a unique area where national government business is conducted.