Senate of Caphiria
|Imperial Senate of Caphiria |
Curiate Assembly |
Bruco de la Lyconcerva
Mario Augustia Acacidus
200 senators |
|Forum Magnum, Venceia, Caphiria|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The Senate of Caphiria (Senatus Imperia) - commonly known as the Imperial Senate - is the national parliament of the Imperium of Caphiria. It is a bicameral legislature consisting of the Curiate Assembly, its lower house, and the Consular Congress, its upper house. It embodies the concept of Senatus Populusque Republica Caphirias, the sovereignty of the people of Caphiria. The Senate meets at the Forum Magnum in the Ostrum District of Venceia.
The general structure of the Senate remains unchanged since its conception from the Republic era and its broader functions are the same from when they were delegated in the 19th century by the Constitution. Nevertheless, the specific powers of its houses have varied considerably over the last millennium, sometimes overshadowing and at other times being overshadowed by the Imperator. After the Second Civil War, the constitutional balance of power shifted from the Senate to the Imperator. Though retaining its legal position as under the republic, in practice, however, the actual authority of the imperial senate was negligible, as the Imperator held the true power in the state. As such, membership in the Senate became sought after by individuals seeking prestige and social standing, rather than actual authority.
Composition and function
The Curiate Assembly is officiated by democratically elected representatives of the public known as senatores (senators). Their role evolved from the self-serving aristocrats of the Old Republic who, plagued with greed, were individually possessed of a great deal more power than modern senators. Today, each senator represents 550,000 citizens of a curia, a contiguous political district within the Imperium. Regular bills need a 51% senatorial majority to become senatus consultum (decree of the senate). Such a bill will be posted in the Forum the following morning for review by magistrates and citizens. Afterward, the Imperator has the power to either enact or veto the bill, unless it carries a supermajority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Consular Congress is composed of Consuls, but are not like the bureaucrats who bore their name during the Old Republic. Consuls are unique in that they govern and represent the Imperium's major cultural groups - Foederatae - and maintain the concept of stratification, which in Caphiria is incredibly complex and diverse, encompassing both legal and social status. The Congress is also unique in that it has the sole power to write bills and introduce legislation, the sole power to ratify treaties, the sole power to try (but not necessarily initiate) impeachment cases against officials of the executive or even judicial branch, following enabling resolutions passed by the Assembly, and it may give advice and consent to some executive decisions (e.g. appointments of cabinet ministers, judges or ambassadors).
Presiding over the Assembly and the de facto head of both houses is the President of the Senate (Princeps Senatus), a magistrate with no voting power but who decides the vote in the event of a tie, sways the opinion of senators by his influence, and can nullify a maximum of 10 votes with a valid reason. As figurehead of the Senate, the Princeps is often the public face for the legislature, speaking to the people of Caphiria several times a year.His duties as president include calling the either house of the Senate to assemble, issuing the final legislative position of the Assembly, maintaining order during parliamentary discussions, and delivering messages from the Assembly in person to the Imperator.
By convention, both houses of the Senate regularly convene every Saturday. Typically, there is a session in the morning, a break for midday meal, then another session in the afternoon. Senators and consuls will return to their homes in Curia V, a district of Venceia, for the night before reconvening Sunday on the Forum Magnum for mass at the Archbasilicæ Magni. However, these are only customs. The Princeps Senatus may call senators from their homes across to empire to a meeting the next day if there is legislation to debate or important matters requiring the attention of the government. The same power applies to the Consul Latina with the members of Congress. These sorts of meetings happen quite frequently. A senator can expect to find himself in the Senate about a hundred to one hundred and fifty days a year.
Occupying the Lower House of the Senate is the Curiate Assembly (Comitia Curiata), 200 directly elected representatives of the citizens. Every senator currently in office was elected according to the majority opinion of the 550,000 citizens within a certain political district known as a curia. There is a perfect equality of votes for senators and, by the equipartition of the citizenry, for the citizens of Caphiria. The Census ensures a consistent 1 to 550,000 ratio of senators to citizens, with the exceptions of the districts of Caphiria where curiae have historical-geographical separations. Abiding by this rule is required under Proclamation 5 of the Constitution. The ratio's value is unessential as long as it is consistent throughout the empire.
Each election result is determined by a series of popular assemblies of these citizens that ends in a popular decision between two senatorial candidates for the curia. It is the job of the Censor to guarantee the people a fair election from both the electorate and the candidates. Only a patrician who has lived more than a year within the curia may run for senator. He must pass a background check by the censors and be a citizen since birth. No one can register as a candidate in more than one curia and the demographic distribution of curiae is decided by the government through the Census every five years.
There is no limit to the number of candidates at the start of a senatorial election. When the first round of voting begins, each citizen will have a vote for one of the candidates. Abstaining is only an option for those who do not attend the assembly, and that option is strongly discouraged by social pressures. Whichever candidate receives the least votes is booted from the running. Successive rounds of voting dwindle the number of candidates down to two for a final vote where the patrician with the majority of votes becomes senator for the curia. Few elections have ended with the winning candidate receiving less than 280,000 out of 550,000 votes. Non-voters are viewed with a certain stigma by Caphirian society for failing to participate in its self-government and further discouraged by revoking the privilege of formally voicing complaints to the elected senator.
Elections for senators are held every lustrum (five years) in months which vary from one curia to another. For the most part, an election lasts about a week, depending on the number of candidates. Elections for the Princeps Senatus occur on the second Sunday of every November - the elections of senators is detailed further down. Any senator is a possible candidate for the position but whichever one is elected relinquishes his office as a senator to his deputy. After his election, an incumbent Princeps Senatus enters office on New Years Day of the following year.
While senators bring local interests to the attention of the legislature, the Consular Congress (Comitium Consularis) is populated by 80 directly elected representatives of the major imperial Foederata (ethnocultural group). Each ethnocultural group revolves around a capital of its culture whose people elect its Consul. An individual consul wields significant power as a magistrate, taking part in both the legislative through his auctoritas nationalis and the executive through his imperium foederalis over his particular Foederata. In the Census, every resident of the Imperium is categorized as either cives or peregrini, and designated a member of one of seventy nationalities or ethnicities. By correlating this information with place of residence, the government cleanly segregates the populace into the 80 Foederatae.
A Consul is the directly elected representative of a Foederata. As such, he must have come into the position by the consent of that group. Every Foederata is represented by its own cultural capital. These cities tend to have the highest population in their respective Foederatae and are mostly populated by people of a certain ethnic group. When a consular position is scheduled to become open, members of that consul's group can submit their candidacy. After a review by the censors, this resident of the Imperium will be either permitted or not permitted to run in the coming election. The election process operates in a similar fashion to that for a senator. However, every person who was determined to belong to the Foederata of the consul being elected can travel to the provincial capital to submit their vote. These elections happen every lustrum.
Consuls are apportioned a number of votes equal to the proportion of the citizens he represents to the total Caphiran population, determined by the Census. Accordingly, the most powerful consul is the Consul Latine with 13 votes. Groups like the Jews, who otherwise have no representation in the government, receive a surprising number of votes - in their case 6. As figurehead for an entire body of peoples, a Consul is an example for the customs of his people and his treatment relative to the others is taken as evidence for the relative standing of his nation. Consuls are some of the most highly respected individuals in the Imperium; they simply radiate dignitas. This has produced the idiom, "better a consul in Caphiria than a king in Punth".
There are several interesting or distinguished consuls: First, the Consul Latine possesses powers quite distinct from the other consuls. As president of Congress, he calls the consuls into session, takes bills in person from the Upper to the Lower house after each stage, and leads most consular sessions through speeches and the right of calling silence. This office most nearly resembles the Consul of Ancient Caphiria and is the peak of any male patricians cursus honorum (political career). Next, the Consul Peregrini stands for the near 100 million non-citizens who hail from foreign countries. While he only has one vote, he must be a non-patrician citizen and is elected by Congress itself. In the last few decades, people in this office have primarily been involved with the status of the Natives living in the Imperium.
When the 80 Consuls gather and convene, they form the Consular Congress. Like the Assembly, a majority in Congress is needed for a bill to pass. Unique among the legislative powers of the Congress is the power to write legislation. No other organ of the government has this power unless it is delegated by Congress. Indeed, delegation of power was the manner in which Imperators after the 14th century hoarded most of the political power in the empire for almost six hundred years.
Powers and duties
The majority of the Senate's powers are set forth in Proclamation 10 of the Constitution. These are the absolute powers of the Imperial Senate. Non-constitutional laws which grant powers to the Senate confer minor powers. The latter are not protected by the Constitution and are generally beyond the jurisdiction of the censors to protect. The Imperator has the right to supersede or disregard the minor powers of the Senate.
Only the powers to write and legitimize legislation as well as to spend from the treasury are absolute powers of the Senate. Signing treaties, employing diplomats, raising legions or fleets, conscripting citizens for the military, and exiling foreigners are examples of the minor powers granted to the Senate over the centuries.
Procedure of the Senate
The life of a bill in the government of the Imperium starts in Congress after one of the 80 consuls presents a written document detailing a revision or addition to Imperial Law. The document will be given to every member of Congress at the start of the session for review. If the proposal gains either the support of at least a third of the consuls or a majority vote of agreement, the bill is taken by the Consul Latine to the Princeps Senatus, who will scan the document for dissemination.
By the time of the next session of the Assembly, every senator will have received an electronic copy of the bill and, ideally, will have read it thoroughly. The Princeps Senatus will ask the assembled senators if there are objections to the bill, formally providing the opportunity to for voicing opposition. This begins the first round of debate on the merits and costs of enacting this piece of legislation. After a week, the Princeps Senatus may end the debates at his own discretion by opening the next session declaring them complete.
Once debates over the bill are closed, there is a roll call of all 200 senators where each individually says whether he is for or against passing the bill. If a minority support the bill, then it returns to the Congress for modification according to major complaints. However, with majority support, the bill will be issued by the Princeps Senatus as senatus consultum (decree of the Senate).
A senatus consultum is posted in the Forum Magnum and brought to the Imperator the day it gets issued. Senators, Consuls, Censors, citizens and the Tribune may review the copy posted in the Forum. Since 1995, senatus consulta have been made available electronically via the official Senate online portal. Politically aware citizens will be disseminating copies within a day and those who are strongly against enacting the bill may voice their concerns to the Tribunus and Imperator through the proper channels.
Permitting the bill has successfully made it gained the support of the citizens, there are three final steps before it is made into law. The bill gets heavily scrutinized from the Censorial Assembly who ensure that it is constitutional; an absence of objections from the Censors indicates that the bill is indeed constitutional. Next, it is given to the Tribune of the Plebs to ensure that the well-being of the plebeians are intact and not being taken advantage of from the aristocrats and patricians. If the Tribune of the Plebs does not veto the decree, then the final step is for the bill to be sent to the Imperator for approval. The Imperator may sign the bill and make it Imperial Law or he may veto it and send it back to the Senate with his objections.
In executing the sovereign will, the Senate possesses the power to tax the population to support its finances. However, the funds generated from taxation and public guilds is under the control of the entire government, that is the Senate, the Ministries and the Caesar. Public spending requires the presence of an aedile, a magistrate with access to government funds. Neither the Senate nor Imperator can appropriate the treasury without one. While the aediles are vested with the authority for spending money, they lack the imperium to actually spend anything. The federal budget consists of the planned spending by the government of Caphiria. Funds allocated to provincial governments, dependent nations, government salaries, military salaries, and infrastructure maintenance are detailed in a budget written in January by the Mensarius Superbus (Supreme Financier) of the Ministry of the Treasury. All other expenditure is at the discretion of the Imperator, Senate, and Ministries within their respective jurisdictions.
Taxes, tariffs, and duties are solely set by the Curiate Assembly in a process similar to passing bills but without the involvement of Congress. A modification to one of these sources of income will be proposed by one senator then the proposal seconded by another. If a majority of the Assembly supports the change in taxes, tariffs or duties then the quaestores, magistrates tasked with employing public workers to collect money owed to the government, change their protocol for the following year.
International and internal commerce are also regulated by the Assembly. Their policies incorporate tariffs, trade agreements with foreign powers, information exchanges among Caphirian guilds, quotas, and limits on multinational guilds to manage international commerce. National economic activity is regulated through minimum wages, public interest rates, unemployment loans, standard work schedules, state retirement programs, public health care, public welfare, government bonds and the money supply. Every single one of these forms of economic regulation are determined by consensus in the Assembly. By comparison, an Imperator is not permitted to directly set taxes, change interest rates or declare tariffs. However, the Imperator can modify the health care system, issue government bonds, modify the printing of money, and alter public benefits within the bounds of the Law.
According to Article II of the Constitution, the death of an Imperator with no recognized heirs leaves the state in a position of sede vacante of its papal and imperial thrones. During sede vacante, the Senate must convene to issue a senatus consultum to elect a new Imperator. Any man of the patrician order is eligible but the Constitution implies that it should be a patriarch of a major Caphirian family. This Act of Imperial Succession has been used only once in the empire's history, to elect the highly decorated patriarch of the Tiguerii house in 1885. Yet it has precedent in an older law legislated by Imperator Utina in anticipation of the end of the Ostoria dynasty.
Some of the Senate's non-constitutional powers are: ratification of international treaties, declaration of war against a foreign power, raising armies or navies, commissioning public monuments, military conscription, erecting military facilities, exiling non-citizens, and issuing research grants. Minor powers mirror many of the absolute powers of the Imperator, allowing the Imperium to function in his absence.
Article VIII of the Constitution submits the entire collective property of Caphirian citizens to ownership by the government. This comes with the essential restriction that no item can be removed from a citizen's possession without returning money equal to its market value and providing a reasonable time frame for its procurement. The constitutional laws outlining this process ensure that the exchange is at least to the financial benefit of the citizen. Furthermore, good reason must be presented to the Censorial Assembly before this measure is enforced.
However, during the First Civil War, Caesar Marius successfully argued that the existence of separate parties runs counter to the national unity that was desperately needed at the time and this ideology as remained ingrained in Caphirian politics and society since. In the modern era, the Imperium allows (at least nominally) democratic multiparty elections, but the existing practices and balance of political power effectively prevent the opposition from winning any elections outside of the local or provincial levels. It is virtually unheard of for a Consul or Senator to declare themselves as siding with any one political party.
Political parties in Caphiria are dominated by the de facto single-party system, which is the Party of the Imperium (Pars ex Imperatoria). It is intrinsically linked to the constitution of Caphiria and is considered the embodiment of the office of the Imperator, serving as the guiding political light of the empire. The Constitution does not explicitly outlaw or ban political parties from forming, though they do have to meet a set of prerequisites before the Imperium will formally allow it to form.
Because of this, the Senate primarily functions as a non-partisan democratic body as elected official comes into office on their own merits, without the support of a national political faction. This does not mean that senators, for example, do not form coalitions in the Senate for supporting a bill. These political alignments are only temporary. Once the desired outcome is either reached or rendered impossible by legislative action, senators tend to cease their ideological collaborations.
The Senate of Caphiria meets at the Forum Magnum in the Ostrum District of Venceia. However, the Forum Magnum is simply the name for the historical plaza of which the center of Venceia existed. The building that the Senate actually meets in is the Curia Sulla (Senate House). Proceedings of the Curiate Assembly take place on the upper floors of the Senate House, beneath the ceiling of its main dome. Ironically, the upper house of the Senate is directly below the Assembly, the lower house. Since the words upper and lower are part of the political vernacular, this facet of the building's design can almost certainly be regarded as intentional. Interestingly, there is rarely confusion between citizens when speaking of either the curia (voting district) or Curia (senate house), though the latter is usually referred to as the Forum Magnum anyway.
The main hall where senators assemble for the Assembly could be called ostentatious by non-Caphirians. About 274 meters in diameter, the senatorial chamber is a perfect circle of five rows, enough room for 200 cushioned marble chairs. Movement through a row is easy over the 1.45 foot path along the front of the seats. Senators enter from the east end through an 18° gap in seating which leads to the magnificent Porta Publica (Gateway of the Republic), an ornate golden entryway to the chamber.
Supporting the massive central dome are three hundred columns, one meter apart, between which are three meter tall holes that face the city of Venceia beyond. A 10 meter wide retractable oculus in the dome's center maximizes the light flooding into the Senate so that it is brightly illuminated all day.
On the west end is another 18° gap in seating. However, this one interrupts the rows with large pieces of art that symbolize the Imperium and Imperator. In front of the wall which supports these symbols - a continuation of the sections of marble making up the rows of seats - are three sellae curules (curule thrones). The luxurious red cushion and golden frame of the Caesar's throne stands in the center of the chairs, flanked on the right by the seat of the Proprinceps, his second-in-command, and on the left by the seat of the Princeps Senatus.
A political district in Caphiria containing 550,000 citizens
A political district in Caphiria containing 550,000 citizens