[JURIST] The German Bundesrat [official website], the upper house of parliament, approved a landmark package of constitutional reforms [official backgrounder, in German] aimed at separating and clarifying the powers of the federal and state governments. The legislation passed the lower house of parliament [JURIST report], the Bundestag, last week by a margin of 428-162. The legislation marks the first major reform that the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website in German; BBC profile] has adopted since taking office seven months ago.
After World War II, Germany's government was organized under an inefficient system of federalism [German Law Journal article] where centralized power was disfavored and each of Germany's 16 states in the Bundesrat upper house had complete veto power over legislation. The new legislation [JURIST report] will strip veto power from the 16 states and allow the federal government to control environmental and nuclear energy policy in exchange for withdrawing federal influence from issues of education, the judiciary, and localized commerce. In a compromise, the federal government may still fund university-based research projects. The legislation will take effect at the beginning of 2007. AFP has more.