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The rule that no member shall introduce a bill which he is unwilling to defend and support personally on the floor, although difficult of enforcement, is a good one and should be followed conscientiously.16 Nevertheless bills are often dropped in "sight unseen." For example, a representative lately confessed that he did not remember who had handed him a bill of far-reaching effect which he had introduced, except that he believed that it had been a woman.17

Either carelessly or through a desire to be identified with popular legislation, members introduce many duplicate measures. In the 1913 session of the Michigan Legislature, nine "blue sky" laws were introduced.18 The same year 112 bills were introduced in duplicate in the Nebraska Legislature, and some even in triplicate, one being introduced twice by the same senator and once by a member of the House.19 Naturally if there is a healthy representation of two parties, both will strive to introduce bills on important subjects; but attempts to facilitate passage by introducing identical measures in both houses are more common and less easy to defend. Legislative reference bureaus have rendered important service in urging members to combine measures and in calling attention to duplicate bills. 20 The rules of California permit the committee on engrossment to substitute a bill of the other house identical with one on their own calendar,21 and in Oregon a committee exists to pass on all bills before printing and thus avoid duplication.22 For 16 This is Nebraska House Rule 34.

17 Indianapolis Star, March 2, 1915.

The following colloquy over a bill up for final passage took place at a recent session of the Illinois Senate.

Mr. Dailey: "What is the purpose of the bill?"

Mr. Meeker: "I don't know; the bill was handed to me."

Mr. Dailey: "You are merely the foster-father?"

Mr. Meeker: "Yes, I am the medium through which the bill was introduced."

It may be added that the bill received a majority of the votes of those present but failed to receive the constitutional number and thus failed. (Senate Debates for 1915, p. 1130.)

18 Reply to questionnaire of Nebraska Legislative Réference Bureau.

19 Statement from the Nebraska Legislative Reference Bureau.

20 The South Dakota Legislative Reference Library reports particular suc

cess along this line.

21 Assembly Rule 9; Senate Rule 3.

22 Statement in reply to Nebraska Questionnaire, 1913.

the same purpose the printing committees of the Washington houses are instructed to scan all bills.23


The increasing number of bills presented has led to discussion as to the feasibility of establishing some form of censorship upon their introduction. But as brought out by the Massachusetts committee to revise legislative procedure, the duty of the censor would necessarily be more than clerical. Consequently it could not be delegated to anyone outside the legislature, although it is unlikely that any group of members could exercise any material power of selection without incurring the dislike of their colleagues and becoming the victims of political scheming.24 A proposal, recommended by a joint committee of the Massachusetts Legislature in 1910,25 designed to sift measures by limiting the number one member might introduce, did not meet with the favor of the two houses, inasmuch as they were unwilling to restrict their present unlimited right. Any innovation with this purpose in view is apt to run counter to the accepted belief that the channel should at all times be kept open in order that the overtures of the most humble citizen may easily attain legislative consideration.

There are numerous provisions of one kind or another limiting the time in which bills may be introduced, but their purpose is rather to protect against hasty legislation than to restrict the quantity. In two states, however, rules have been adopted designed to decrease the number which each member may propose. Introduction of bills in the Georgia House is in order but three days a week, and a member can present but one bill of a general nature each day.26 In Illinois a member may introduce three bills a day during the first three weeks; thereafter on Tuesdays only.27 But the efficacy of these provisions is greatly weakened by the custom of granting unanimous consent to introduce bills at any time.28

23 Ibid.

24 Report of the Massachusetts Committee to Revise the Rules, 1915, p. 29. 25 Ibid., p. 28.

26 House Rule 40.

27 House Rule 18.

28 Mr. E. D. Shurtleff, member of the Rules Committee of Illinois House, states that he has never known such consent to be refused.

From California comes the latest novelty in the form of a constitutional


The procedure followed in introducing a bill varies somewhat in the different states. In a few the rules require that the old formality of asking for leave be carried out.29 In others introduction by roll call of counties is still observed.30 Under the latter procedure a member rises as his county is called and notifies the speaker that he has a bill to introduce. A page then hurries a copy to the clerk who reads the title to the house.31 In Illinois bills are introduced upon a roll call of members.32 The more general practice permits members to secure recognition from the presiding officer when the house is under the proper order of business, and to send the bill to the clerk who reads the title. This constitutes the first reading. If, however, the constitution requires three readings in full, a pretense of reading the text is made.

To escape the useless waste of time involved in the above procedure, several states, after the example of Congress, provide a box in which bills are deposited,33 or have required that they be filed amendment offered in a resolution to the Assembly. Bills are to be presented to the Supreme Court before the legislature convenes, which shall render an advisory opinion as to their merits. The number which members may initiate after the session opens is greatly restricted. (Assembly Constitutional Amendment, No. 57, Feb. 3, 1913.)

The effect of California's first "split session" was an increase of over one thousand bills presented. The first thirty days were largely devoted to introduction of measures. (Statement from State Library to Nebraska Questionnaire, 1913.) But in 1915 the number swung back to normal. (Key to Chaptered Laws for 1915.)

29 True of Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New Jersey Senate.

30 Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

31 Hughes, “Guide to Parliamentary Practice in Ohio" (1913). This follows the early practice of Congress when motions for leave or resolutions of inquiry were introduced upon a call of the states. Debates of Congress, 2 Sess., 24 Cong., Col. 1341.

32 House Rule 18, and "Law Making in Illinois," pamphlet issued by Illinois Legislative Reference Bureau.

33 Maine, New Hampshire House, New York, North Carolina Senate. In 1914 New York adopted the requirement that before a bill is placed in the box it must be stamped by the clerk to show that it was presented personally by a member. This was to prevent bills from being dropped in by other persons, chiefly clerks.

beforehand with the speaker or clerk.34 Thus bills receive their first reading and reference to committee one day after they have been presented to the house, the speaker being given time to select the appropriate committees.35 Otherwise his reference is the result of a snap judgment. The reading of titles on introduction and oral reference by the presiding officer, consumes precious time. The whole order of business is gone through in the most perfunctory manner. Members pay no attention, relying upon the printed journals or calendars to learn all they want to know. And inasmuch as the printed journal of the day's proceedings appears the next morning there is no reason why introduction and reference should consume any time of the house whatever. Notice in the journal would be sufficient and, where no constitutional obstacle prevents, following the practice of Congress, could be counted as first reading.


It is required by the constitutions of nine states that notice of intention to introduce a private or local bill be published, and the legislative law of seven other states requires that notice be published or served.37 In Massachusetts and South Carolina private bill legislation must be founded upon petition,38 and thus is retained a trace of the ancient practice when all legislation was based upon petitions for redress of grievances. In this connection it has been urged that a return to the practice of initiating private measures by petition and the numbering of them in a series distinct from public bills, would prove the first step towards developing a special procedure in private and local matters.39 This is indeed a consummation devoutly to be wished. Since a bill for the particular benefit of certain persons or of a special locality may prove injurious to others, the passage of such a measure involves a judicial inquiry 34 Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

35 New York Assembly Rule 6; Pennsylvania House Rule 10. "Index-Digest of State Constitutions. They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas. North Carolina and New Jersey simply require notice before passage.

37 Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island require publication before the beginning of the session.

38 Massachusetts Senate Rule 15, House Rule 31. Code of South Carolina (1912) ¶34-38.

39 See article by J. David Thompson, "An Analysis of Present Methods of Congressional Legislation," Proceedings A. P. S. A., Vol. X, p. 168.

and determination, rather than a decision on public policy. Recognizing this fact, the English Parliament treats it very much as a lawsuit would be treated, and the preliminaries attending its introduction closely resemble the pleadings in a civil suit. We have, however, made but feeble progress in dealing with private bill procedure, nor has the mere provision that they be accompanied by petitions availed anything in Massachusetts. If the petition were required to set forth the scope and object of the bill and opportunity were given for adverse interests to file a counter petition something approaching a civil pleading would be attained. These claims and counter claims could then accompany a bill throughout its legislative progress.40 South Carolina has gone so far as to require that the petition must set forth the merits of the case and why the purpose cannot be accomplished by general law, and a statement that all parties known to be concerned have had the requisite notice must be included.41 Connecticut statutes provide that petitions of an adversary nature must be accompanied with a citation to the adverse parties to appear, and twelve days notice must be given before the day of appearance.42 School fund petitions are returnable a month before the session opens and are heard by a special commission which reports to the General Assembly.43

40 Recommended by the Governor's Commission of New York (1895). See New York Assembly Document No. 20, 1896.

41 Code of South Carolina, supra.

42 General Laws of Connecticut (1902) 7.

43 Ibid., ¶15.

The procedure which promoters of private bills in Parliament must observe before application is made are given in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, Part II. They exist unchanged today as summarized by May, "Parliamentary Practice," pp. 679-684. It will be seen that petitioners must furnish complete information for the guidance of the committee which is to carry on the investigation. Proof that all conditions have been fulfilled must be exhibited to one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, who are officers appointed by the Speaker. (S. O. No. 2.)

The Canadian legislatures have followed the English precedent. The rules of the Ontario Legislature, which have served as models for the western provinces, specify in detail what the petition shall contain and what additional matter shall be deposited with the clerk. The Committee on Standing Orders reports on the sufficiency of the notice, and the clerk certifies that the necessary documents have been deposited with him. No motion for the suspension of these rules is entertained unless reported by the Committee on Standing Orders. (Rules of the Ontario House, 51-59.)

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