Enabling act
An enabling act is a piece of legislation
Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

 by which a legislative body grants an entity which depends on it for authorization
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 or legitimacy
Legitimacy (law)
At common law, legitimacy is the status of a child who is born to parents who are legally married to one another; and of a child who is born shortly after the parents' divorce. In canon and in civil law, the offspring of putative marriages have been considered legitimate children...

 the power to take certain actions. For example, enabling acts often establish government agencies to carry out specific government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 policies in a modern nation state. The effects of enabling acts from different times and places vary widely.

Acts of 1914-1927

The German word for enabling act is "Ermächtigungsgesetz". The first one dated from August 4, 1914 just after the outbreak of World War I. With the vote of the Social Democrats
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

, the Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

 (the parliament) agreed to give the government certain powers to take the necessary economic measures during the war. Such enabling acts were also common in other countries. The Reichstag had to be informed, and had the right to abolish a decree based on the enabling act. This ensured that the government used its rights with care and only in rare cases was a decree abolished. The parliament retained its right to make law.

In the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 (1919–1933), there were several enabling acts: three in 1919, one in 1920 and one in 1921, three in 1923, one in 1926 and one in 1927. Most of them had a temporal limit but only vague thematical limits. On the basis of these acts, a vast number of decrees were signed with enormous importance for social and economic life, the judicial system, and taxes. For example, the reform of German currency, the establishment of a single, national railway system and unemployment pay were settled via such decrees (Vollmacht-Verordnungen).

These enabling acts were unconstitutional, as the Weimar constitution did not provide the possibility that one organ (parliament) would transfer its rights to another one (government). But constitutional experts accepted them because they came into existence with a two-thirds majority, the same majority as for constitutional changes. The government had success in gathering those majorities by threatening to call for presidential dictatorial decrees (usually called Notverordnungen), otherwise. In March 1924, the Reichstag wanted to discuss an abolishment of decrees (which was granted by the enabling act of February that year). President Friedrich Ebert dismissed parliament to avoid discussion and abolishments.

In later years, since the radicalization of the nationalists (DNVP) in 1928 and the rise of national socialism from 1930, governments failed to gather two-thirds majorities. Chancellor Heinrich Brüning (1930–1932) worked with presidential decrees which replaced most of ordinary legislature, eventually.

The enabling acts had set a poor and dangerous example. But for the government, they had the advantage that they appeared less unconstitutional and dictatorial compared to presidential decrees. Parliament could prefer those acts because they were valid only for a limited time and included mostly a kind of cooperation (e.g. via a special house committee).

Enabling act of 1933

The German word Ermächtigungsgesetz usually refers to the enabling act of March 23, 1933, officially Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich ("Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the State"). It became a cornerstone of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's seizure of power. Unlike, for example, the Wilhelm Marx enabling act of December 1923, Hitler's act
  • was limited to four years, not several months
  • enabled government not only to create decrees, but even laws and treaties with other countries
  • these laws could deviate from the constitution
  • there were no thematic limits
  • neither any house committee nor the Reichsrat
    Reichsrat (Germany)
    The Reichsrat was one of the two legislative bodies in Germany under the Weimar constitution, the other one being the Reichstag. After the end of German monarchy and the founding of the Weimar Republic in 1919, the Reichsrat replaced the Bundesrat as the representation of the various German...

     (the common organ of the German regional states) had the right to control, or to abolish these laws

In comparison to the situation of the 1920s, Hitler's NSDAP and his coalition partner DNVP
German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

 did have a parliamentary majority since the general elections of March 3, 1933. Those elections and then the voting in the Reichstag were already overshadowed by national socialist terror. On March 23, only the Social Democrat delegates voted against, the Communists were imprisoned, while the Centre and moderate right parties voted yes in order to prevent "worse".

The enabling act of 1933 was renewed by a purely Nazi Reichstag in 1937 and 1939. In 1941 and 1943 it was renewed by decree, in 1943 without temporal limit. Although it states that it is valid only for the duration of the current Hitler government of 1933, it remained even after severe exchanges of ministers. In any case, Hitler called the cabinet together only very rarely after the first months of 1933-the last cabinet meeting happened in 1937. He preferred to "govern" via decrees and personal orders.

Federal Republic

In the Federal Republic of Germany, with its 1949 constitution, there have been no enabling acts. The constitution states that it can be only changed by an explicit alteration of the phrasing.

In the United Kingdom

In the 1930s, both Sir Stafford Cripps
Stafford Cripps
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps was a British Labour politician of the first half of the 20th century. During World War II he served in a number of positions in the wartime coalition, including Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Minister of Aircraft Production...

 and Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 advocated an enabling act to allow a future Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 government to pass socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 legislation which would not be amended by normal parliamentary procedures and the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

. According to Cripps, his "Planning and Enabling Act" would not be able to be repealed, and the orders made by the government using the act would not be allowed discussion in Parliament.

Cripps also suggested measures against the monarchy
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

, but quickly dropped the idea.

In 1966 Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet, of Ancoats, was an English politician, known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists...

 advocated a government of national unity drawn from "the professions, from science, from the unions and the managers, from businessmen, the housewives, from the services, from the universities, and even from the best of the politicians". This coalition would be a "hard centre" oriented one which would also get Parliament to pass an Enabling Act in order to stop what Mosley described as "time-wasting obstructionism of present procedure". He also claimed that Parliament would always retain the power to dismiss his government by vote of censure
A censure is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism. Among the forms that it can take are a stern rebuke by a legislature, a spiritual penalty imposed by a church, and a negative judgment pronounced on a theological proposition.-Politics:...

 if its policies failed or if it attempted to "override basic British freedoms".

In early 2006 the highly controversial yet little-publicised Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill
Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill
The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was enacted to replace the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 .-The Bill for this Act:...

 was introduced to Parliament. This Bill, if enacted into law, would have enabled Government ministers to amend or repeal any legislation (including the L&RR Bill itself), subject to vague and highly subjective restraints, by decree and without recourse to Parliament. The Bill was variously described as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill" and "...of first-class constitutional significance... [and would] markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process". The Bill is, in essence, an Enabling Act in all but name.

After some amendment by the government and Lords, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill received Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 on 8 November 2006. Amendments included removing its ability to modify itself or the Human Rights Act 1998
Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000. Its aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights...

; most of the other modifications were much more subjectively defined.

In the United States

The term "enabling act" in United States law is usually in relation to the formation of a new U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

: legislation is passed by Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 authorizing the people of a territory
United States territory
United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters including all U.S. Naval carriers. The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its...

 to frame a constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

; this act also lays down the requirements that must be met as a prerequisite to statehood. These Acts have usually been titled "An Enabling Act for a State of (Name)".

It may also be in relation to the formation of an agency or department. The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act is the enabling Act for the US FDA.

Enabling acts of the United States include:
  • Enabling Act of 1802
    Enabling Act of 1802
    The Enabling Act of 1802 was passed on April 30, 1802 by the Seventh Congress of the United States. This act authorized the residents of the eastern portion of the Northwest Territory to form the state of Ohio and join the U.S. on an equal footing with the other states...

    , for the formation of Ohio
    Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

     from the Northwest Territory
    Northwest Territory
    The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, more commonly known as the Northwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 13, 1787, until March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio...

  • Enabling Act of 1889
    Enabling Act of 1889
    The Enabling Act of 1889 is a United States statute that enabled North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington to form state governments and to gain admission as states of the union....

    , for the formation of North Dakota
    North Dakota
    North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

    , South Dakota
    South Dakota
    South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

    , Montana
    Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

    , and Washington
  • Enabling Act of 1910, for the admission of Arizona
    Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

     and New Mexico
    New Mexico
    New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

  • Alaska Statehood Act
    Alaska Statehood Act
    The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 7, 1958, allowing Alaska to become the 49th U.S. state on January 3, 1959.-History: the road to Statehood:...

  • Hawaii Admission Act
    Hawaii Admission Act
    The Admission Act, formally An Act to Provide for the Admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union is a statute enacted by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which dissolved the Territory of Hawaii and established the State of Hawaii as the 50th...

In Venezuela

In Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, enabling laws allowing the President to rule by decree
Rule by decree
Rule by decree is a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group, and is used primarily by dictators and absolute monarchs, although philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben have argued that it has been generalized since World War I in all modern states,...

 in selected matters were granted to Rómulo Betancourt
Rómulo Betancourt
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello , known as "The Father of Venezuelan Democracy", was President of Venezuela from 1945 to 1948 and again from 1959 to 1964, as well as leader of Accion Democratica, Venezuela's dominant political party in the 20th century...

 (1959), Carlos Andrés Pérez
Carlos Andrés Pérez
Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez , also known as CAP and often referred to as El Gocho , was a Venezuelan politician, President of Venezuela from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 to 1993. His first presidency was known as the Saudi Venezuela due to its economic and social prosperity thanks to...

 (1974), Jaime Lusinchi
Jaime Lusinchi
Jaime Ramón Lusinchi is a Venezuelan politician who was the President of Venezuela from 1984 to 1989. His term was characterized by an economic crisis, growth of the External debt, populist policies, currency depreciation, inflation and corruption that exacerbated the crisis of the political...

 (1984), Ramón José Velásquez
Ramón José Velásquez
Ramón José Velásquez Mujica is a Venezuelan political figure. He served as Acting president of Venezuela between 1993 and 1994. He is known as a historian, journalist, lawyer, politician and entertainer of companies for his knowledge of the "national life".Velásquez was born in Táchira,Venezuela...

 (1993) and Rafael Caldera
Rafael Caldera
Rafael Antonio Caldera Rodríguez was president of Venezuela from 1969 to 1974 and again from 1994 to 1999.Caldera taught sociology and law at various universities before entering politics. He was a founding member of COPEI, Venezuela's Christian Democratic party...

 (1994). Pérez issued over 3000 decrees under the powers delegated to him.

In mid-2000 a similar law enabled Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

to legislate on issues related to the economy, reorganization of government ministries, and crime for one year. Chávez did not take advantage of this act until shortly before its expiration, when he passed 49 decrees in rapid succession, many of them highly controversial. In 2007, a new enabling act granted President Chávez powers for 18 months, giving the president the ability to rule by decree over certain economic, social, territorial, defense, and scientific matters as well as control over transportation, regulations for popular participation, and rules for governing state institutions.
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