Bundesrat, second chamber of parliament, shares the legislative power with the Nationalrat; the Nationalrat and the Bundesrat together form the Bundesversammlung. The Bundesrat represents the interests of the provinces concerning legislation. Its members are elected by the Landtage by a proportional system based on the population of the province for the duration of a legislative period but they are not responsible to the Landtage. The number of members is determined by the Federal President according to the result of the national census (last census 1993). The largest province sends 12 members, the other provinces send fewer members in line with their relative populations, the minimum number being 3. In 2000 the Bundesrat consisted of 64 members (Lower Austria: 12, Vienna: 11, Upper Austria: 11, Styria: 10, Tirol: 5, Carinthia: 5, Salzburg: 4, Vorarlberg: 3, Burgenland: 3). The Bundesrat does not have a fixed legislative period but functions continuously, part of its membership being renewed on the basis of provincial election results (principle of partial renewal). Please consult the tables for an overview of the distribution of seats Freiheitliche Partei Oesterreichs (Austrian Freedom Party), Oesterreichische Volkspartei (Austrian People's Party), Sozialdemokratische Partei Oesterreichs (Austrian Social Democratic Party).
The presidency of the Bundesrat rotates every six months, the appointments being made by the Provinces (in alphabetical order). Sessions are held at the seat of the Nationalrat in Vienna. The members of the Bundesrat enjoy Immunity like the members of the Nationalrat. A member of the Bundesrat cannot be a member of the Nationalrat at the same time. The sessions of the Bundesrat are held in public, members of the federal government may address the meeting. One third of the members of the Bundesrat constitute a quorum. Committees are set up for preliminary deliberation.
The Bundesrat may veto laws passed by the Nationalrat. This veto has only suspensive effect, since the Nationalrat may override the veto by resolution. Adoption of laws concerning the organisation of the Bundesrat or restricting the powers of the provinces require the consent of the Bundesrat. Adoptions of laws against which the Bundesrat has not right to object (e.g. federal budget), are only brought to the notice of the Bundesrat.
The Bundesrat has the following powers: it may formulate questions to the federal government, introduce bills in the Nationalrat; demand a plebiscite (Volksabstimmung) if a law passed by the Nationalrat alters the federal constitution; participate in the conclusion of state treaties and in the dismissal of the Landtage.
The Bundesrat is politically rather insignificant; therefore, the provinces regularly call for reform designed to vest the Bundesrat with more powers.
Literature#H. Schambeck (ed.), Oe. Parlamentarismus, 1986; J. Rauchenberger, Stichwort Bundeslaender, Bundesrat, 2000.