The Legislative Branch

Title IX The Legislative Branch

Chapter I
Organization of the Legislative Assembly

Article 105

The power to legislate resides in the people, which delegate this power, by means of suffrage, to the Legislative Assembly. Such a power may not be waived or subject to limitations by any agreement or contract, either directly or indirectly, except in the case of treaties, in accordance with the principles of International Law.
(As amended by Law No. 7128, August 18, 1989.)

Article 106

The representatives have that character for the Nation and shall be elected by provinces.

The Assembly is composed of fifty-seven representatives. Every time that a general census of the population is conducted, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal shall allocate to the provinces a number of representatives in proportion to their population.
(As amended by subsection 2 of the single article of Law No. 2741, May 12, 1961.)

Article 107

Representatives shall hold office for four years and may not be reelected to a succeeding term.

Article 108

The requirements to become a representative are:
  1. To be a citizen in the exercise of his rights;
  2. To be a Costa Rican by birth, or by naturalization with ten years of residence in the country after naturalization;
  3. To be at least twenty-one years old.

Article 109

The following may not be elected representatives or registered as candidates for that office:
  1. The President of the Republic or anyone acting as such at the time of the election;
  2. Cabinet Ministers;
  3. The regular Justices of the Supreme Court of Justice;
  4. The regular members and alternates of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and the Director of the Civil Registry Office;
  5. The military in active service;
  6. Those having jurisdiction or exercising civil or police authority over any province;
  7. Managers of autonomous institutions;
  8. Relatives of the person who is then holding office as President of the Republic, to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity inclusive.
These incompatibilities shall affect anyone holding the aforesaid positions within six months prior to the date of the election.

Article 110

A representative is not liable for any opinions expressed at the Assembly. During legislative sessions, he cannot be arrested on civil grounds, except by authorization of the Assembly or with the consent of the representative.

From the time he is declared elected as representative or as an alternate representative, until expiration of his legal term in office, he may not be deprived of his freedom on criminal grounds, unless he has been previously suspended by the Assembly. Such immunity does not apply in case of flagrante delicto or when the representative waives it. Nevertheless, a representative who has been arrested for flagrante delicto will be released if the Assembly so orders.

Article 111

After taking the oath of office, no representative may accept any position or employment with other State Branches or autonomous institutions, under penalty of losing his credentials, except as a Cabinet Minister. In this case, he shall be reinstated in the Assembly when he is no longer in such position.

This prohibition does not apply to those appointed as members of international delegations or holding positions in charitable institutions, or who are professors of the University of Costa Rica or other State institutions of higher education.
(As amended by Law No. 5697, June 9, 1975.)

Article 112

The legislative function is also incompatible with the holding of any other public office of popular election.

Representatives may not enter into any contract with the State or its autonomous institutions, directly or indirectly or through representation, or obtain any concession of public property that may involve a privilege, or serve as directors, administrators or managers of enterprises which enter into contracts with the State for public works, furnishing of supplies, or operation of public utilities.

Violation of any of the prohibitions contained in this or the foregoing article shall result in the loss of the credentials as representative. The same shall occur to the representative who violates any of these provisions while serving as a Cabinet Minister.

Article 113

The law shall fix the compensation of representatives as well as any technical and administrative assistance to be given to them.
(As amended by Law No. 6960, June 1, 1984).

Article 114

The Assembly shall be based at the capital of the Republic and the vote of two thirds of the whole membership shall be required to transfer its seat somewhere else or to suspend its sessions for a specific period.

Article 115

The Assembly shall elect its Directorate at the beginning of each legislative period. The President and the Vice President must fulfill the same conditions required to be President of the Republic. The President of the Assembly shall take an oath before the Assembly and the representatives before the President.

Article 116

The Legislative Assembly shall meet each year on the first day of May, even if it has not been convoked, and its regular-session term shall last six months, divided into two periods: from the first day of May to the thirty-first day of July and from the first day of September to the thirtieth day of November.

One Legislative Period includes all regular and extraordinary sessions held between the first day of May and the next thirtieth day of April.

Article 117

The Assembly may not hold its sessions unless they are attended by two thirds of the total membership.

If it is impossible to initiate a session on the scheduled day, or if after opening it, it cannot continue due to lack of a quorum, the attending members present shall urge the absent members to attend, under penalty of the sanctions established by the Regulations, for their attendance, and the Assembly shall open or continue its sessions when attended by the required number of members.

Sessions shall be public, unless for very special reasons of general convenience, it is resolved to make them secret by vote of not less than two-thirds of the attending representatives.

Article 118

The Executive Branch may convoke the Legislative Assembly to extraordinary sessions. No issues other than those stated in the decree of convocation may be discussed, except for the appointment of officials when incumbent upon the Assembly or any legal amendments that may be essential to act upon issues submitted to its consideration.

Article 119

The resolutions of the Assembly shall be adopted by the absolute majority vote of the attending representatives, except in those cases in which this Constitution requires a qualified majority.

Article 120

The Executive Branch shall place at the disposal of the Legislative Assembly such police force as the President of the Assembly may request.

Chapter II
Powers of the Legislative Assembly

Article 121

In addition to other powers vested in it by this Constitution, the Legislative Assembly has exclusive powers to:
  1. Enact, amend, repeal and give an authentic interpretation to the laws, except as otherwise provided in the chapter referring to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal;
  2. Designate the premises to be used for its sessions, open and close the sessions and suspend or continue them when so is decided by the Assembly:
  3. Appoint the regular and alternate justices of the Supreme Court of Justice;
  4. Approve or disapprove international conventions, public treaties and concordats.
  5. Public treaties and international conventions which confer or transfer certain powers to a community legal order for the purpose of achieving common regional objectives shall require the approval of the Legislative Assembly by a vote of not less than two-thirds of its entire membership.
  6. Lesser-rank protocols derived from public treaties or international conventions approved by the Assembly when these instruments expressly authorize such Protocols shall not required the legislative approval.
  7. (As amended by Law No. 4123, May 31, 1968.)
  8. Give or withhold its consent to the entrance of foreign troops into the national territory and for the stay of warships at ports or airfields;
  9. Authorize the Executive Branch to declare a state of national defense and to reach peace agreements;
  10. Suspend, by vote of no less than two thirds of its entire membership, in case of clear public need, the individual rights and guarantees conferred by Articles 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 37 of this Constitution. This suspension may include all or certain rights and guarantees, throughout the territory or only in a part of it, and for no more than thirty days. During the suspension and with respect to persons, the Executive Branch may order their detention only in establishments not used for common criminals, or may order their confinement to inhabited places. It must also report to the Legislative Assembly, at its next meeting, any measures taken to safeguard public order or maintain the security of the State. In no case may individual rights and guarantees not listed in this subsection be suspended;
  11. Take the legal oath and receive the resignation of members of the Supreme Branches, with the exception of Cabinet Ministers; settle any doubts that may arise as to the lack of physical or mental capacity of the person exercising the Presidency of the Republic, and decide whether to call in his legal substitute to take office;
  12. Admit or refuse any impeachment made against the person exercising the Presidency of the Republic, the Vice Presidents, members of the Supreme Branches and Diplomatic Ministers, declaring by a vote of two thirds of the entire Assembly whether or not there are grounds for legal action against them, placing them, if there are, at the disposition of the Supreme Court of Justice for prosecution thereof;
  13. Order the suspension of any officials mentioned in the preceding subsection, if they are to be prosecuted for common crimes;
  14. Fix the regular and extraordinary budgets of the Republic;
  15. Appoint the Comptroller General and the Assistant Comptroller General of the Republic;
  16. Impose taxes and national contributions and authorize Municipal taxes;
  17. Order the disposal or the application to public use of property that belongs to the Nation.
  18. The following property may not be permanently removed from State ownership:
    • Any power that may be obtained from public waters within the national territory;
    • Deposits of coal, wells and deposits of oil and any other hydrocarbons, as well as any deposits of radioactive minerals existing within the national territory;
    • Wireless services;
  19. Property mentioned in subsections a), b), and c) above may be exploited only by the public administration or by private parties, in accordance with the law or under a special concession granted for a limited time and on the basis of conditions and stipulations to be established by the Legislative Assembly.
  20. National railroads, docks, and airports --the latter while in use-- may not be sold, leased or encumbered, directly or indirectly, or be otherwise removed from State ownership and control.
  21. Approve or disapprove loans or similar agreements affecting public credit, entered into by the Executive Branch.
  22. In order to subscribe agreements for loans abroad, or within the country but financed with foreign capital, it is necessary that the respective project be approved by the vote of two thirds of the entire membership of the Legislative Assembly.
  23. (As amended by Law No. 4123, May 31, 1968.)
  24. Bestow honorary citizenship for distinguished services rendered to the Republic and decree honors to the memory of persons whose eminent activities may have made them worthy of such a distinction.
  25. Determine the law of the unit of currency and enact laws on currency, credit, weights and measures. For the purpose of determining the law of the unit of currency, the Assembly shall previously hear the opinion of the technical body in charge of monetary regulation.
  26. Promote the progress of sciences and arts and ensure to authors and inventors, for a limited time, ownership of their respective works or inventions
  27. Create establishments for teaching and advancement of sciences and arts, allocating revenues for their support and endeavoring particularly to make elementary education general.
  28. Create the Courts of Justice and other entities for the national service.
  29. By a vote of no less than two thirds of the entire membership, grant general amnesties and pardons for political crimes, except electoral offenses, for which there shall be no mercy;
  30. Adopt Regulations for its own functioning, which, after being adopted may not be amended, except by a vote of no less than two thirds of the entire membership;
  31. Appoint commissions from within its membership to investigate any matter entrusted to them by the Assembly and submit the appropriate report.
  32. Such Commissions shall have free access to all official agencies to conduct their investigations and collect any data they may deem necessary. They may receive any kind of evidence and summon before them any person for purposes of interrogation;
  33. Formulate questions to Cabinet Ministers and, in addition, by a vote of two thirds of the attending representatives, censure such officials if, in the opinion of the Assembly, they are guilty of illegal or unconstitutional acts or serious errors that have caused or may cause evident damages to the public interest.
  34. Matters under diplomatic negotiation or concerning pending military operations are excepted in both cases.

Article 122

The Assembly is prohibited to give votes of applause for official acts, or to recognize at the expense of the Public Treasury obligations which have not been previously declared as such by the Judicial Branch or accepted by the Executive Branch; or to grant scholarships, pensions, retirement annuities or rewards.

Enactment of Laws

Article 123

During regular sessions, the initiative for enactment of laws can be taken by any member of the Legislative Assembly, or by the Executive Branch through the Cabinet Ministers.

Article 124

In order to become a law, every bill of law shall be the subject matter of two debates, each on a different non-consecutive day, obtain the approval of the Assembly and the sanction of the Executive Branch, and be published in the Official Journal, without prejudice of the requirements established by this Constitution for special cases. Action taken exercising the powers listed in sections 2), 3), 5), 6), 7), 8), 9), 10), 12), 16), 21), 22), 23), and 24) of Article 121 do not have the status of laws, and therefore do not require the foregoing procedure; they shall be voted at a single session and then published in the Official Journal.

The Legislative Assembly can delegate upon permanent commissions the cognizance and passing of bills of law. However, the Assembly can remove from them at any time the debate or the vote of bills of law subject matter of delegation.

Delegation does not proceed in the case of bills of law concerning electoral matters, the creation of national taxes or the modification of existing taxes, the exercise of the powers foreseen in sections 4), 11), 14), 15) and 17) of Article 121 of the Political Constitution, the calling of a Constitutional Assembly for any purpose, and a partial amendment to the Political Constitution.

The Assembly shall appoint said permanent commissions with full legislative powers, in such way that their composition may reflect on a proportional basis the number of representatives of the constituent political parties.

 Delegation shall be approved by a majority of two thirds of the total membership of the Assembly and the removal, by absolute majority of the attending representatives.
The Regulations of the Assembly shall regulate the number of these commissions and other conditions for delegation and removal, as well as the procedures to be applied in these cases.

Legislative approval of contracts, agreements and other acts of an administrative nature does not vest in such acts the character of laws even if such approval is given through the regular procedure for enactment of laws.
(As amended by Article 1, Law No. 7347, July 1, 1993.)

Article 125

If the Executive Branch does not approve a bill of law passed by the Assembly, it shall veto it and return it with pertinent objections. A veto may not be used for the bill of law that contains the Regular Budget of the Republic.

Article 126

Within ten business days following the date on which a bill of law passed by the Legislative Assembly is received, the Executive Branch may object to it as inappropriate or in need of amendments; in the latter case, the Executive Branch shall propose such amendments when returning the bill of law. If the Executive Branch does not object to a bill of law within said term, it shall approve and publish it.

Article 127

When a bill of law is reconsidered by the Assembly with the observations of the Executive Branch, if the Assembly rejects them and the bill of law is again passed by a vote of two thirds of the total membership, it is thereby sanctioned and must be enforced as a law of the Republic. If the proposed amendments are adopted, the bill of law shall be returned to the Executive Branch, which may not refuse to sanction it. If they are rejected, and the bill of law is not approved by a vote of two thirds, it shall be filed and may not be considered until the next legislative period.

Article 128

If the veto is based on grounds of unconstitutionality not accepted by the Assembly, it shall submit the bill to the Chamber indicated in Article 10 to decide upon the issue within the following thirty calendar days following receipt of the record.

The provisions declared to be unconstitutional shall be considered rejected and the others shall be submitted to the Assembly for the appropriate proceedings. The same shall be done with a bill of law passed by the Legislative Assembly, when the Chamber rules that it does not contain unconstitutional provisions.
(As amended by Law No. 7128, August 18, 1989.)

Article 129

Laws are compulsory and effective from the date therein designated; if this requirement is missing, ten days after publication thereof in the Official Journal.

No one may claim ignorance of the law, except when authorized by the law itself.

Waiver of laws in general or any special waiver of laws of public interest shall not be effective.

Acts and agreements against prohibitive laws shall be null and void, unless otherwise provided by the law itself.

A law may not be abrogated or repealed except by a subsequent law, and no disuse, custom, or opposite practice can be claimed against its enforcement.