The 60 members of the Senate had to be 40 years of age and could not be a member of the Landtag (the other and more important chamber of the Bavarian parliament). Every other year, a third of the Senate's members would be elected by corporations representing social, economic, municipal or cultural groups or appointed by religious denominations for a term of six years. The number of seats representing each group was fixed by the constitution of Bavaria:
The Senate's main role was consulting other state institutions and delivering legal opinion. It also had the power to delay state legislation passed by the Landtag within a month (one week for urgent acts). However, the Landtag could overturn the veto by a simple majority, the same majority required to pass a law in the first place.
In June 1997, a popular initiative petition sponsored by the Ecological Democratic Party gained 927,047 signatures (10.5% of those entitled to vote). In the following referendum on 8 February 1998, which yielded a turnout of 39.9%, a majority of 69.2% voted for the law amending the State Constitution to abolish the Senate. A counter-proposal by the ruling Christian Social Union, which would have changed the composition of the Senate, only received 23.6%.