We have all heard the terms mentioned above countless times. ‘Parliament has approve the Organic Law…’ or ‘this measure has been approve by Ordinary Law…’ are phrases that we hear daily in all the media, but do we know the difference between the two? In this blog post from our Belo Silva law firm we will explain how they differ.
“Law”, according to the Royal Spanish Academy
To begin with, although it seems obvious, we are going to give a definition about what is law. The Royal Spanish Academy defines law as ‘Standard issued by Parliament or Courts, approved with that name and following the legislative procedure established in the Regulations of the Chambers, which contains mandates and occupies a hierarchical position immediately below the Constitution and above the other rules’. Well, surely many know what a law is in the abstract as an integrated standard within the legal system of our country. But, the laws are classified into two different types: the ordinary law and the organic law. This is so because there are certain matters in which a larger majority of the Chamber is necessary when it comes to approving them, of course, due to the importance of the matters that come into play.
Our Constitution of 1978, as the supreme norm of the legal system, establishes what an organic law is in its article 81. This determines that organic laws are those that refer to the development of fundamental rights and public liberties, as well as those that approve the Statutes of Autonomy and the general electoral regime and the others provided for in the Constitution.
Well, therefore the first specialty of the organic law is that it has to refer to a specific set of matters, as we have already said above. Once we know which are the matters that have to be necessarily regulate by organic law, we understand that this is and only this way of legislating them, since we are dealing with a series of matters of special relevance in our society. To give visible examples, in our legal system there are a multitude of organic laws, among which organic law 10/1995, of November 23, of the Penal Code stands out, that is, the Penal Code that we all know, in addition to laws such as the Organic Law 1/2004, of December 28, on Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender Violence, Organic Law 6/1985, of July 1, on the Judiciary… and so we could list an infinite number of regulations.
The peculiarity of the organic law is that in addition to referring to a set of certain matters, for its approval it is necessary that certain requirements are met with respect to the majority that is require. In this case, article 81.2 of the Constitution provides that an absolute majority of Congress is require, which is why a consensus is necessary in Parliament on certain issues so that this type of law can go ahead.
For its part, the ordinary law covers all matters that have not been expressly reserve to the organic law. Regarding the way in which it is approve, it does not require how the absolute majority that is require for ordinary law can be deduce. Therefore, an ordinary law will be approve with a simple majority of the Chamber.
In view of all this, we can say that it is clear what the difference between one and the other is. As a last note and no less important, we must emphasize that the ordinary law is below the organic law in the hierarchical order.
What is a Royal Decree?
To explain it simply, a decree is a legal norm with the rank of regulation approve by the executive bodies. It is a type of administrative action that emanates from the executive and legislative power that, generally, has a regulatory normative content, and therefore, in the normative hierarchy it supposes a lower rank than the laws. That is why they should not contradict the laws in force, and in any circumstance what a law says will prevail over what a decree or royal decree says.
At the moment that a decree is called “royal”, it means that the King, as Head of State, orders it, since it is so marked in the Spanish Constitution in article 62 f. It is, therefore, a rule that comes from the Ministry. A royal decree is signed by the king and endorsed by the president of the Government or by the competent ministers. A clear example is Royal Decree 126/2014 that develops the primary education curriculum for the entire Spanish state.