Bundesländer (variously referred to as "Länder", (federal) provinces or (federal) states): The historical development of Austria is characterised by the formation of various territories (marches, duchies, counties) and their unification under a Prince. Each of these "provinces" developed its own bodies of laws, and from the Middle Ages they had differently composed Estates advised and assisted the Prince and represented the population. From the 17th century during the period of absolutism they lost influence but showed their loyalty to the state by consenting to the Pragmatic Sanction. After 1848 the constitution was adjusted at various times to reflect the new situation (October diploma of 1860, February Patent of 1861); Landtage were set up, the provinces obtained restricted legislative power and an autonomous administration. At the same time a princely administration was established (governorships, groups of provinces with governors, crown lands). These different coexistent administrative systems led to several conflicts during the monarchy, especially since from 1873 the Landtage were no longer entitled to send delegates to the Reichsrat. On October 30, 1918, the Provisional National Assembly proclaimed Austria an independent state. The provinces set up organisations similar to states and claimed the right to have their own legislatures. They solemnly declared their membership of the newly established republic, which was accepted by the Provisional National Assembly on November 12, 1918 and enshrined in the law of November 14, 1918. At the provincial conferences in Linz and Salzburg the Federal Constitution of 1920, which took into consideration the federalist and autonomous nature of the provinces and established the Republic as a Federal State, was worked out. The authoritarian constitution of 1934 jeopardised the federal nature of the Austrian state. The term "Republic" was removed from the official name of the state, which became merely the Federal State of Austria. After the anschluss the Austrian provinces were subdivided into gaus of the German Reich which were directly subordinate to the central offices of Berlin (1939/40-1945). After the re-establishment of the Republic in 1945, the provinces were endowed with their old powers.
Article 2 of the Federal Constitutional Law stipulates: "Austria is a Federal State. The Federal State shall consist of the following Provinces: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tirol, Vorarlberg and Vienna." The principle of the Federal State is established by the provinces' powers concerning legislation (enacted by the Landtage) and administration (with the Provincial Government, as the highest organ); furthermore, the provinces have an influence on federal legislation since they send members to the Bundesrat. The number of members of the provincial governments and of the Bundesrat is proportional to the size of the respective province. All Austrians possess Austrian Citizenship, and are at the same time citizens of the province in which they have their permanent residence.
The provinces are entitled to enact Constitutions, Provincial, although these must not conflict with the provisions of the Federal Constitution; the Constitutional Court may declare null and void any provisions of the provincial constitutions that are in conflict with Federal Constitutional Law. While the Federal Constitution vests the judicial power exclusively in the federal government, it assigns the legislative and administrative powers to the federal government and the provinces. Disputes over the distribution of powers are decided by the Constitutional Court.
Legislative and executive powers not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government by the Federal Constitution are within the competence of the provinces ( autonomous field of action). Since the Federal Constitution, however, delegates the most important legislative and executive powers to the federal government, there are not many powers left within the autonomous field of action of the provinces, these are restricted mainly to local security police, municipal issues, building, fire police, provincial cultural affairs (theatre, cinema), hunting and fishing rights, field and nature preservation, animal protection, sports and tourism, service regulations of provincial and municipal civil servants. The provinces may sign state treaties with countries bordering on Austria or their constituent states if the respective issue is within their autonomous field of action. Moreover, the Federal Constitution assigns several issues to the federal government in so far as basic legislation is concerned, while leaving the implementing legislation and execution to the provinces (e.g. public assistance, youth welfare, sanatoriums and nursing homes, electricity, industrial legislation and protection of workers in agriculture and forestry); other issues are subject to federal legislation but the execution of the respective federal laws is entrusted to the provinces (e.g. citizenship, traffic police, professional interest groups except for those subject to federal action). The Federal Constitution authorises the federal legislature to determine the distribution of taxing powers and of the tax revenues between the federal government and the provinces.
This distribution of powers between the federal government and the provinces leaves the position of the provinces as entities under private law untouched; like all citizens they may participate in legal transactions (e.g. by participation in enterprises or the allocation of subsidies). The federal government and the provinces, as well as the provinces amongst themselves may conclude agreements about issues within their respective field of action.
The unicameral Landtage are the legislative bodies of the provinces. The provincial governments are the highest administrative organs of the provinces; their members, as well as their chairman, the Landeshauptmann, are elected by and responsible to the Landtag. The Landeshauptmann is head of the province and its representative.
Vienna has a special status since, under the Federal Constitution, it is primarily a municipality but at the same time also a province. Thus, the governmental bodies of the city of Vienna have a double function: the Municipal Council is also Landtag, the Senate is also the provincial government, and the mayor is the Landeshauptmann. Public Authorities, Structure of, Population.
Literature: F. Koja, Das Verfassungsrecht der österreichischen Bundesländer, 1967.