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usually be entertained. For this the states have Congressional precedent.23

It is usual to adopt the rules of the last session with perhaps minor changes reported by the rules committee. Until the rules are adopted the house operates under general parliamentary law. On these grounds a motion for the previous question was entertained in the New York Senate and is the only instance on record of such a motion being considered by that body.24

The organization of each house completed and the fact sent by message to the other house, it is customary to appoint a joint committee to wait upon the governor to inform him that the legislature is ready to proceed to business.

23 See 1 Hinds 82, 242, 245.

24 Clerk's Manual, 1916, p. 650.



It is generally recognized that our present legislative machinery was not designed to meet the heavy burdens placed upon it in the form of hundreds of measures introduced each session. Legislative channels are congested by countless bills of individual members, and no satisfactory methods have been devised to stem the torrent. Indeed it is not strange that a procedure developed to secure deliberation for measures introduced by the tens should prove inadequate when measures are presented by the thousands. At a time when legislation is increasing rapidly in complexity and technical detail there exist no limits, except the self-imposed restrictions of individual members, to the number of bills which a house must consider.1


The right of a member to demand consideration for a legislative proposal has not always been so clear as at present. In the early days of our state legislatures, following the practice of Parliament, bills could be introduced only by motion for leave or by order of the house, and in either case action by a committee was necessary. A member seeking to introduce a bill would, after one day's notice, state to the house its general nature and move for leave. Leave being granted, a committee, of which the proponent was always made chairman, was appointed to prepare and bring in the bill.3

1 See Bulletin of Nebraska Legislative Reference Bureau, “Legislative Procedure in the Forty-eight States,” pp. 10–11, for a table of number of bills introduced each session from 1909-1913. Each successive session shows an increase.

2 Clark, “Assembly Manual for New York" (1816); Sutherland, "Legislative Manual for Pennsylvania" (1830). See also the journals of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Virginia for about the year 1800. For a complete discussion of this method see Debates of Congress, 1 Sess., 20 Cong., 823–827.

3 Earlier practice in Pennsylvania had allowed a member to introduce a bill in place. The rule was, "Any member may read a bill in his place, and by permission of the house present it to the chair; it shall then be proceeded upon as if presented by a committee." (Rule 14, Pa. H. J. 1805, p. 28.) Yet the right was

Closely related to the above method was the order of inquiry, which was simply an order to a committee to consider the expediency of legislating along a certain line. It was grounded on a presumed lack of knowledge and was an investigation started by. the legislature to secure information which could not otherwise be obtained. At one time generally employed, this form survived in Massachusetts alone, where it was not abolished until 1893.7 By that time it had become the normal way of introducing measures for consideration, but having lost all traces of its original purpose, it remained only as a cumbersome method of initiating legislation. Committees were charged with preparing measures when, because of the great increase in the number presented, their normal function was to sift measures, and great delay resulted.

A petition often formed the basis of a bill in the earlier days. Indeed the chief work of standing committees was the consideration of petitions. Originally, a committee reporting favorably recommended that a select committee be appointed to bring in a bill along the lines of the petition. Reference of a petition, however, soon came to confer authority to introduce a bill formally, although theretofore the committee in possession of the petition had not been able to report by bill unless empowered to do so by a special resolution. Introduction by petition is still common in some New Engrestricted by requiring leave to be obtained. An examination of the journals will show that but few were introduced in this manner and that practically all bills were presented by a committee pursuant to order. So strong was the feeling that measures introduced should first be subjected to review that later the privilege of introducing bills in place was withdrawn, and the colonial practice of introduction solely by committee was restored.

4 In Congress it was "a most common form" for measures other than those initiated by petition. (Debates of Congress, 2 Sess., 19 Cong., Col. 776; and statement of Mr. Polk, Speaker, Debates of Congress, 2 Sess., 24 Cong., Col. 1340. See also the journals of the time.)

5 Report of the Special Rules Committee, Massachusetts House Documents, No. 5, Session of 1893.

6 See journals of the legislatures of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, in particular the journals of Pennsylvania.

7 Massachusetts S. J. 1893, p. 155. Today an order of inquiry merely authorizes an investigation and not the introduction of a bill. (Ruling of the Speaker, H. J. 1898, p. 456.)

8 See journals of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts or Virginia about 1800. No committee was authorized to report a bill unless granted by resolution the privilege "to report by bill or otherwise." In course of time this was granted to cer

land states and is required in Massachusetts for all private bills. The petition, however, must be accompanied by a draft of the bill, and although it is in itself a mere survival, only a fraction of even the general measures in Massachusetts are introduced without it.' The point of order that a bill is broader in its scope than the petition will be entertained.1o

The cumbersome method of appointing a committee to prepare and bring in a bill gave place, as the pressure of business increased, to introduction of the complete measure from the floor, upon leave, and after one day's notice." At first debate might occur upon the motion for leave but it soon became common to grant leave to all by unanimous consent. Thereupon introduction at will without the formality of securing leave came to be permitted."

From this brief historical survey it is clear that originally the 'privilege of a member to introduce measures for consideration was not the unregulated right which it is today. The prevailing doctrine was that the consent of the house, or at least of a committee thereof, must be gained before a bill could be admitted for consideration, and in granting assent real deliberation was involved.13 The tain standing committees for the session, and later it was extended to all by a blanket resolution. Afterwards it was incorporated in the rules.

9 Massachusetts Senate Rule 22, House Rule 29.

10 Notes on Rulings, Massachusetts Manual 1916, p. 634. The method permits measures to be proposed without a member being recognized as sponsor, for although some member must endorse each one, he is not thereby made advocate for it. (Frothingham, "Brief History of the Constitution and Government of Massachusetts," p. 93.)

11 As early as 1808 introduction by members from the floor was permitted in the New York Senate. When first recognized by the rules the method was employed but little, the great bulk of proposed measures coming in by petition.

12 In 1843 in Pennsylvania; House Resolution No. 31. In 1868 the New York Assembly adopted the order of introduction of bills on call of counties (A. J., p. 94). Several states still adhere to introduction by leave in which case one member can compel a motion to grant leave.

13 The question was fully discussed in Congress in 1827 when a proposal was up to amend the rules to make it clear that no bill should be introduced except upon the report of a committee, the old rule being so worded as to lead some to fear that bills might be brought in without committee action thereon. The reason given why the House usually admitted notice of intention to introduce a bill was that the judgment of the committee which would report on its expediency would be accepted since the committee exercised a discretion in the matter. In the course of the debate Mr. Archer said: "But if a member of the House may,

sifting forces of the house were thus applied before legislative proposals assumed the dignity of bills. Bills were introduced as the result of committee deliberation and, with the exception of consideration in the committee of the whole, were not usually sent again to a committee.


In our legislatures, where nothing like a responsible ministry has been developed, action must be inaugurated by the private member. With the exception of appropriation bills, measures are rarely introduced by committee action. Members are proverbially careless about exercising their right. They are not impressed with the value of the legislature's time nor are they conscious that, by their failure to select carefully what measures they will propose, they render deliberation upon them a mockery. A recent investigation carried on among the members of the Nebraska Legislature revealed that only 40 per cent of the bills introduced were the result of the members' own initiative or study of the subject. Sixty per cent were introduced at the request of individuals or societies.14

Permitting the words "by request," to be endorsed upon a bill, as is done in many states, favors the introduction of trivial measures by relieving the proponent of responsibility. The practice reaches a real abuse in Missouri, where in 1915, 15 per cent of the House bills were "by request." Very rarely in any state do such measures become law. Generally they are never reported favorably from committee. In Pennsylvania such an endorsement means the death warrant of a bill, as members argue that there must be something wrong if the sponsor is unwilling to identify himself with it.15 on leave, bring in any bill which suits his particular views, and that bill must of necessity pass immediately to its first and second reading, all sound legislation would be at an end." (Debates of Congress 1 Sess., 20 Cong., Col. 823 to 827.) Quoted by Chester Lloyd Jones, Proc. A. P. S. A.; 1913–14; p. 191.

14 Bulletin of the Nebraska Legislative Reference Bureau, "Legislative Procedure in the Forty-eight States," p. 9.

15 Statement of Mr. Scott, Chairman of Committee on Committees, Penna. House, 1913. Illinois and Kansas are notable offenders. The Illinois Voters' League strongly urges prohibition of the practice. (See Bulletin of December 20, 1914.) The rule in the Washington Senate is that such bills are not to be printed unless by special order.

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