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It is true that this preposterous state of things is general, but it is not universal. The Massachusetts Legislature, at any rate, is not guilty of such enormities. No matter what the desire of its members to get through and go home, the ordinary forms of committee' reference, hearing, and report are observed to the end. If there is suspension of the rule calling for reading on separate days, it is done with due regard to the rights of minorities and with all the care for thorough work that could reasonably be expected. In brief, cause for serious complaint does not in fact exist. There can be no question, however, that reform is sadly needed in most of the States, and in some respects there is chance for gain even in the best of our Legislatures.

Governor Ammons of Colorado writes me that his only suggestion for remedy is to compel the disposition of all bills before the fixing of the final date of adjournment. He says the limit on the length of sessions was removed in his State because of the fact that the Legislature did very little work at the beginning of the session, and left a great deal undone or passed legislation in bad shape during the rush at the close of the session. The final days were also used to defeat legislation or, as was often the case, to change laws to an undesirable form. “The constitutional amendment said nothing about finishing business before the day of adjournment was fixed, and so each General Assembly has fixed a day with a good deal the same result as that which attended the old system."

But why fix a day for adjournment? In the Legislature with which I am familiar, that of Massachusetts, it is not deemed necessary. The only approach to it is the custom under which the presiding officers of the two branches, when they find the work drawing to a close, see that a rule is passed making the morning and the afternoon each a legislative day, letting bills get two readings within twenty-four hours. So little remains to be done, that this exposes members to no danger of surprise. It would not be accurate to say there is no hurry whatever in the closing hours, but up to the last moment nothing is done to stifle debate.

The trouble many other Legislatures seem to invite, is in Massachusetts now almost wholly avoided by a precaution put into effect before the session is half through. Committees are by rule required to report before a specified date on all matters


that have been referred to them, and as no new business can be introduced after the first few days of the session except with an approval from the Committee on Rules that is not easily secured, or by a four-fifths vote rejecting an adverse decision of that Committee, very little new work is added. Figures from the Massachusetts Blue Books give a striking example of what can be done in the way of reform, without blare of trumpets, without exaggerated abuse, solely by the development of a healthy public spirit manifesting itself in a system of rules gradually perfected by thoughtful legislators working modestly, almost silently, for the common welfare. Here are the totals of the measures acted upon by the Governor on the last day of the session (none being thereafter signed in Massachusetts):

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Of course the maintenance of such a system as has produced this result is largely a matter of custom. If a Legislature is not pervaded by a spirit of respect for its own rules, its case is hopeless. All to be said is that if a Legislature really wants to lessen the crush of work at the end of a session, by spreading discussion on the floor over the later weeks, it can be done, just as in at least one State it actually is done, and has been done for years.

Some of the States have tried to meet the situation by constitutional provisions. Thus Indiana said in 1851: "No bill shall be presented to the Governor within two days next previous to the final adjournment of the General Assembly.” In practice, however, bills are passed up to the last day, though only such as the Governor is willing to consider; the provision has, therefore, simply the effect of giving him an absolute veto on all bills passed in the last two days of the session. Minnesota's Constitution reads: "No bill shall be passed by either House of the Legislature upon the day prescribed for the adjournment of the two Houses. But this section shall not be so construed as to preclude the enrollment of a bill, or the signa

· Paul S. Reinsch, American Legislatures, 140.

ture and passage from one House to the other, or the reports thereon from a committee, or its transmission to the executive for his signature.” The only effect is to shorten the session by one day for legislative purposes; the last day is devoted to corrections of the Journal, and to the passage of resolutions and memorials. Texas in 1876 said: “No bill shall be passed which has not been presented and referred to and reported from a committee at least three days before the final adjournment of the Legislature." Louisiana in 1879 said no appropriation of money should be made in the last five days of the session. Mississippi in 1890 added revenue bills to a like prohibition. Alabama in 1901 confined the injunction to revenue bills, and so did Oklahoma in 1907.

In so far as such provisions are meant to lessen the crush at the end of the session, they are more or less futile. Their only practical advantage lies in giving the Governor a little more time for considering whether to sign or veto. The topic is not one that ought to be handled by organic law. The evils can be and ought to be met by legislative rules. Looking in this direction is the joint rule of the Pennsylvania Legislature which forbids the passage of any bill, resolution, or order to which the Governor's signature is required, on the day of adjournment. That, however, is not the right way to get at the trouble. The real solution lies in rules such as those of Massachusetts securing the early introduction of business and prompt reports from committees. If a Legislature will live up to the spirit of such a programme, as the Massachusetts Legislature does, and if the preposterous idea of limiting the length of sessions is abandoned, what is now one of the greatest obstacles to good lawmaking by the States, will become insignificant.

Congress has always shown the need of protection. It would be possible to bring proofs from the story of the closing hours of every term. Let one description suffice, that of the last day of the very first Congress of the United States, which may not only portray the evil, but also convince that it is not the product of a degenerate age. Senator Maclay with his usual vivacity and acerbity tells us what took place on the 3d of March, 1791. “As well might I write the rambles of Harlequin Ranger or the vagaries of a pantomime," his Journal reads, "as to attempt to minute the business of this morning. What with the exits and the entrances of our Otis (the Secretary of the Senate), the announcings, the advancings, speechings, drawings, and withdrawings of Buckley (Beckley (?) Clerk of the House) and Lear [Secretary of the President), and the comings and goings of our committee of enrollment, etc., and the consequent running of door-keepers, opening and slamming of doors, the House seemed in a continual hurricane. Speaking would have been idle, for nobody would or could hear. Had all the business been previously digested, matter or form would have been of little consequence. This, however, was not the case. It was patching, piecing, altering, and amending, and even originating new business. It was, however, only for Ellsworth, King, or some of Hamilton's people to rise, and the thing was generally done.”

This was one of Maclay's slurs on the "court” faction. Having therewith again voiced his dislike of the President's friends, he went on: “But they had overshot themselves; for, owing to little unforeseen impediments, there was no possibility of working all through, and there was to be a great dinner which must be absolutely attended to. Terrible, indeed, but no alternative — the House must meet at six o'clock.

“In the evening by candle-light. When I saw the merry mood in which the Senate assembled, I was ready to laugh. When I considered the occasion, I was almost disposed to give way to a very different emotion. I did, however, neither the one nor the other; and, feeling myself as little importance as I had ever done in my life, I took pen and paper and determined, if possible, to keep pace with the hurry of business as it passed."

Then he notes some of the measures. On one he would have been glad to speak, but — “To speak in the present uproar was like letting off a pop-gun in a thunderstorm.” After a time he gave up his notations, for “there was now such confusion with Otis, Beckley, Lear, our committee of enrollment, etc., that I confess I lost their arrangement. Indeed, I am apt

, to believe if they had any they lost it themselves. They all agreed at last that the business was done. The President left the chair, and the members scampered down stairs."

In the 4th Congress there was a proposal in the Senate for a rule forbidding the origination of a law of general importance within the last ten days of the session, and declaring that the Senate would act on none received from the House within that time, but the proposal was not adopted. The 17th Congress

· Annals of Congress, 2d Sess., 4th Cong., 576, 1577.


added to the joint rules: “No bill that shall have passed one House shall be sent for concurrence to the other on either of the three last days of the session"; and, “No bill or resolution that shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall be presented to the President of the United States, for his approbation, on the last day of the session.” At almost every session thereafter, while the joint rules were in force, one or both of these rules would be suspended in favor of certain or all of the bills of the session. Thus, of 142 bills passed in 1832–33, 90 were signed under suspension of the rules. At first it was held that these rules could be suspended whenever a majority wished, without a day's notice; but in 1836 it was held that it required unanimous consent to consider a resolution from the House suspending the rules, on the same day that it was received. In 1852 the rules were amended so as to provide that such a motion should "always be in order, be immediately considered and decided without debate.” In the 44th Congress the Senate held that there were no joint rules, the House not having adopted the resolution sent to it by the Senate readopting those of the previous session. “Thus, since 1876, there has not been even the restraint of the 16th and 17th joint rules on the pushing of important business to the end of the session.” 1

The difficulty is not one peculiar to the United States, nor is it modern. As far back as 1668 the House of Lords had occasion to make a standing order that in the case of bills coming up near the time of adjournment, no argument (such as shortness of time) should thereafter be used to precipitate their passing, but that due consideration should be had, according to the course of Parliament. It has been found necessary to limit the reception of bills from the Commons to a period of the session when there is time enough to consider them.2



Much of the trouble is due to the effect of the session's end upon pending bills.

Bacon, in his Abridgment (title "Court of Parliament” F.), says, “the diversity between a prorogation and an adjournment or continuance of the Parliament is, that by the prorogation

· Clara H. Kerr, Origin and Development of the U.S. Senate, 51, 52.
2 H. Cox, Institutions of the English Government, 168.

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