Laws, Treaties, and Appropriations



If legislation is the shape and form of government then funding is its life blood.  The primary function of a government is to govern.  In order to do this it passes laws, and enters into treaties with other governments, etc.   Besides foreign governments, treaties are also executed between international organization and agencies such as the United Nations.   To support the infrastructure necessary to govern, a government collects taxes, develops budgets, and disperses funding in the form appropriations and grants.    Each nation,  international organization, state, etc. handles these processes slightly differently, but all this activity generates reams of paperwork.



As long as people have lived communally, there have been laws.  The earliest known book of laws dates from around 2100 B.C. from the City-State of Ur in the Middle East.  The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and Romans all had codified laws.  The Roman Legal Code compiled by Justinian in the 6th Century has heavily influenced the American Law just as it has that of most of the European nations.  Although the Justinian Code influenced American Law, the root of American legal code is the British Common Law.   From this, Federal, State and Local governments have developed and codified the laws that govern us today.  These laws are constantly changing and evolving, as society changes and evolves.  [Law. Legal Dictionary]  A short definition of Law is: 

...a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority  [Law. Merriam-Webster]

 a slightly longer definition is:

 …principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision...  []

All laws start as an idea.  In the United States, the idea in the form of a bill goes through the following basic steps on its way to becoming a law.


  • It is proposed
  • It is studied
  • It is debated
  • It is voted
  • It is signed

"In a typical year, more than 5,000 bills are introduced in Congress.  But only about 150 of them become law." [How a Bill Becomes Law]  Not all bills proposed become law, but how a bill becomes law is much the same on the federal, state, and local levels.  Other countries use other methods to create laws.



International Law is based on a network of binding agreements.  While examples of these agreements exist from the time of the Egyptians, it is only recently that they are becoming increasingly codified.  Called by various names including treaty, convention, protocol, pact, accord, understanding, etc., what it is called does not affect its legal standing.    A treaty is defined as a:

“a formal agreement between two or more nations, relating to peace, alliance, trade, etc.”  [Your Dictionary]

According to the United Nations

…the term "treaty" is reserved for matters of some gravity that require more solemn agreements. Their signatures are usually sealed and they normally require ratification. Typical examples of international instruments designated as "treaties" are Peace Treaties, Border Treaties, Delimitation Treaties, Extradition Treaties and Treaties of Friendship, Commerce and Cooperation. [United Nations Treaty Collection] 

The terms convention, protocol, pact, accord, understanding, etc. are generally employed when the subject matter is less formal in nature.

The term “treaty” as defined in the U.S. Constitution is much narrower than that standardly accepted on the international level.  Under the Constitution, a treaty although it is entered into by the President must be agreed to by the Senate.  To bypass the legislative approval process, the President can enter into an "Executive Agreement" with leaders of other countries. []  How the U.S. views agreement such as executive orders, treaties, etc. and how the rest of the world views them may vary.  In the U.S. these agreements although they do lay out areas of cooperation do not carry the same legal standing as treaties.  The rest of the world considers them to be binding treaties.  Only the Federal Government can enter in to treaties under the Constitution.  States governments can enter into “agreements”, etc. with other states, foreign governments, and entities with the consent of Congress, but not a “Treaty”. [Legal Dictionary - Treaty]

Treaties are written.   Most treaties follow a standard format.

The Preamble which gives the names of the nations, etc. involved, a summary statement of the aim of the treaty, and list of the persons empowered to negotiate the treaty and who has empowered them to do this. [Legal Dictionary – Treaty]

The Articles which lay out the specific terms of the agreement. [Legal Dictionary – Treaty]

Statement of how the treaty will ratified and setting the time and place for exchange of ratifications. [Legal Dictionary – Treaty]

Place for signatures/seals, etc. of the signatories. [Legal Dictionary – Treaty]

Amendments can be added to the document with appropriate signatures attesting to the changes but only before the treaty is signed.  Any changes after signing, requires a new agreement.  Treaties generally go into effect upon ratification, and are in effect until all parties involved agree to dissolve it or as specified in the original treaty.  War between the principals does not necessarily cancel a treaty.  In the past there was an all or nothing aspect to treaties, signatories had agreed to all the articles if signing it.  This is changing, as treaties have become more complex and the number of parties involved has increased, signatories are increasing agreeing and signing only portions of a treaty. [Legal Dictionary - Treaty]  The United States includes in all its treaties the wording to the effect that it agrees only to the extent that it does not violate the U.S. Constitution. []



A budget represents a government’s expenditures and revenues for a given fiscal period. [Capital Budgeting]  How a government acquires and spends its revenue in part defines a city, a state, or a nation.  Things that are funded and to the extent that they are funded indicates that government’s priorities.  All levels of government from the national to the smallest town produce financial documents to account for income and spending.  All have some sort of revenue stream from taxes, fines, licenses and permits, etc.  All have outlay in the form of funded programs, public services, personnel costs, etc.  These activities generate reports, budgets, and other financial documents to account for the funds under government control.

Government revenue is derived from taxes, bonds, fees and licenses, lotteries, and intergovernmental transfer of money.  While the majority of nations rely on revenue derived from consumption taxes, in the United States, the federal government relies heavily on revenue derived from personal income tax.  It also generates income from corporate income taxes, payroll and excise taxes, tariffs and custom duties, bonds, fines and fees, etc.  State governments rely heavily on intergovernmental transfers especially federal grants, individual and corporation income taxes, taxes on specific good and services such as tobacco, alcohol, fuel, etc., licenses, and bonds.  Recently some have turned to running lotteries, investing in bonds and the stock market to generate additional income.  Local governments – city and/or counties, get most of their income from federal and/or state intergovernmental transfers, property and sales taxes, special assessments, user fees and charges, and finally bonds. [Public Budgeting and Financial Management]  Collecting wage taxes is an up and coming revenue stream being tapped by many local governments.  The mix varies from country to country, state to state, county to county, city to city.  Finding fiscal information on revenue from taxes, funding levels for government programs, budgets, etc. are all very similar. 

The federal government unlike many others can and does run a deficit budget.  In the United States the budgeting process for the most part begins and ends with the Executive branch.  The entire process is somewhat convoluted.  The basic process goes through the following steps.  The Executive Branch develops a proposed budget that it submits to the Legislative Branch who in in turn draw up the appropriation bills to fund the government for the next fiscal cycle.   The Executive Branch in turn then either signs the appropriation bill and funds that portion of the government or rejects it returning it the Legislature for further consideration.  This cycle continues until the government is fully funded.  If no agreement is reached by the end of the fiscal year, Legislature must enact temporary funding measures or risk government shutdown.

The primary focus of this section is on the Federal Government and how it handles Laws, Treaties, and Appropriations.  The information presented is from U.S. perspective.  There is also information on how the State of Ohio handles enacting laws, and the budget process.  Although in the United States legal and fiscal matters are handled in similar matter from the smallest town to the Federal government, this is not always so outside the US.  Each country handles these matters in different ways.  It can be a bit of a challenge especially on the local level and the international to locate legal and fiscal information. 



Capital Budgeting.  Washington, D.C.:  Congressional Budget Office, May 2008, p.1. 

Definitions.  (United Nations Treaty Collection)

Dictionary/Thesaurus – Treaty.  (The Free Dictionary by Farlex)

How a Bill Becomes Law.  (Scholastic Inc.)

Law.  (

Law.  (Merriam-Webster)

Legal Dictionary – Law.  (

Legal Dictionary – Treaty.  (The Free Dictionary by Farlex)

Public Budgeting and Financial Management.  (Florida International University)

Search Legal Terms and Definitions: Treaty.  (

Treaty.  (Your Dictionary)

Treaty – Definition.  (  [Originally accessed 09/25/2012 3:07 PM, Link no longer available 2/16/2015]


Further Reading

Capital Budgeting.  Washington, D.C.:  Congressional Budget Office, May 2008. 

Definitions.  (United Nations Treaty Collection)

International Law and Agreements:  Their Effect Upon U.S. Law.  Michael John Garcia.  Washington, D.C.:  Congressional Research Service, January 26, 2010.

Introduction to U.S. Budget Process.  (University of California. Berkeley. Library) 

Legal Dictionary – Law.  (

Legal Dictionary – Treaty.  (The Free Dictionary by Farlex)

Public Budgeting.  (enotes) 

Treaties and International Agreements.  (University of California Berkeley.  Law Library)