The Polish Senate has its origin in the mid-fourteenth century. The Upper Chamber had always been present, in one form or another, in the over 500-year history of the Polish parliament. It was not until the end of World War Two, in 1946, when the Senate was abolished by the communists under a fraudulent referendum. The Chamber was only re-established after the democratic transformations of 1989.
In accordance with article 10 (2) and article 95 of the Constitution of 2 April 1997, the legislative power is exercised by the Sejm and the Senate. In specific cases, both chambers may have joint sessions as the National Assembly.
The Senate consists of 100 senators elected for 4 years by direct universal suffrage, by secret ballot, in single-member constituencies.
The Chamber has the right to initiate legislation. The Senate examines bills passed by the Sejm within 30 days of their submission, unless a bill is urgent, in which case it is examined within 14 days. The Senate may accept, amend or reject a bill passed by the Sejm. The Senate’s resolution to reject or amend a bill is deemed accepted when it is not overruled by the Sejm by an absolute majority of votes in the presence of at least half the statutory number of deputies.
In accordance with its constitutional powers, the Senate authorises referendums called by the President on matters of particular importance to the State. It chooses members of some national authorities and approves appointment and dismissal of these authorities.
The Senate participates in matters associated with Poland’s membership in the European Union. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, which has given national parliaments greater powers in the Community law-making process, the Senate has the right, among other things, to send its opinions on identified breaches of the principle of subsidiarity to the European Union bodies.
The Senate continues the tradition of the Senate of the Second Republic of Poland, providing assistance to Polonia (Polish Diaspora) and Poles abroad. Funds for that purpose are allocated every year in the budget of the Chancellery of the Senate.