A Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) is a representative elected by the voters of an electoral district (constituency) to the Legislature of a State in the Indian system of government. Each state has between seven and nine MLAs for every Member of Parliament (MP) that it has in the Lok Sabha. There are also Members in two unicameral legislatures in Union Territories: the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Puducherry Legislative Assembly.
In states where there are two houses there is a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly . In such a case, the Legislative Council is the Upper House, while Legislative Assembly is the Lower House of the State Legislature. The Governor shall not be a member of the Legislature or Parliament; shall not hold any office of profit, shall be entitled to emoluments and allowances. (Article 158 of Indian constitution).
The Legislative Assembly consists of not more than 500 members and not less than 60. The biggest state like Uttar Pradesh has 403 members in its Assembly. States which have small population and are small in size have a provision for having even lesser number of members in the Legislative Assembly. Puducherry has 30 members. Mizoram, Goa have only 40 members each. Sikkim has 32 members. All members of the Legislative Assembly are elected on the basis of adult franchise, and one member is elected from one constituency. Just as the President has the power to nominate 2 Anglo Indians to the Lok Sabha, similarly, the Governor also has the power to nominate 1 member from Anglo Indian's community as he/she deems fit, if he/she is of the opinion that they are not adequately represented in the Assembly.
The qualifications to member of the state Legislature are largely similar to the qualifications to be the members of Parliament. A person should be i) a citizen of India ii) not less than 25 years of age to be member of the Legislative Assembly and not less than 30 years as per Article 173 of Indian Constitution to be a member of the Legislative Council.
No person can become a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council of any state, unless the individual is a voter from any constituency of the state. Those who cannot become members of Parliament can also not become members of state Legislature. The member is elected by the people of that particular constituency and represents those people in the legislative assembly and debates on issues related to his or her constituency. The MLA's position is like an MP only but the difference is only that MLA is in the state level and the MP is in the national level.
The term of the Legislative Assembly is five years. But it may be dissolved even earlier than five years by the Governor on the request of Chief Minister. The term of the Legislative Assembly may be extended during an Emergency, but not more than six months at a time.In the State of Jammu and Kashmir the tenure of the Legislative Assembly is 6 years.
The Legislative Council is the Upper House in the State. Just like the Rajya Sabha it is a permanent House. The members of state's upper house are selected based on the strength of each party in the lower house and by state gubernatorial nomination. The term of each member is 6 years and 1/3 members of the House retire after every two years. The upper house of a state assembly, unlike the Upper house of the Parliament, can be abolished by the lower house, if it passes a specific law bill, which states to dissolve the upper house, and gets it attested in both houses of parliament and then signed by the president into law. Only Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh have their Upper houses in existence. All other states have abolished the upper house by the above mentioned method, as the upper house causes unnecessary problems and issues.
The most important function of the Legislature is law making. The State Legislature has the power to make laws on all items on which Parliament cannot legislate. Some of these items are police, prisons, irrigation, agriculture, local governments, public health, pilgrimages, burial grounds etc. Some items on which both Parliament and states can make laws are education, marriage and divorce, forests, protection of wild animals and birds etc.
As regards Money Bill, the position is the same. Bills can originate only in the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council can either pass the bill within 14 days from the date of the receipt of the Bill or suggest changes in it within 14 days. But these changes may or may not be accepted by the Assembly.
The State Legislature besides making laws has one electoral power in electing the President of India. Elected members of the Legislative Assembly along with the elected members of Parliament are involved in this process.
Some parts of the Constitution can be amended by Parliament with the approval of half of State Legislatures. Thus the State legislatures take part in the process of amendment of the Constitution.
Similar to the Presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council also have Presiding Officers. The Legislative Assembly has a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker and the Legislative Council has a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman. They are elected from among the members of the House.