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in open court there is a session, and then such bills as passed in either House, or by both Houses, and had no royal assent to them, must, at the next assembly, begin again . . . but if it be only adjourned or continued, all things continue in the same state they were in before the adjournment or continuance.” An English government having business it cannot finish in the course of the regular session, and does not want to abandon, will sometimes resort to an adjournment instead of a prorogation. The need of such an awkward device is unfortunate. Some simpler way ought to be found to prevent the waste of time and energy that takes place under the present system. Every year the end of the session comes without action on measures to which Ministers and House have given much effort, and the work has to begin over again and be largely repeated at the next session. Numerous attempts have been made to remedy the evil. When in 1890 a majority report advised the House to carry unfinished business from one session to the next, Mr. Gladstone, then leading the Opposition, showed that like proposals had been under consideration by the House for forty years, and in every instance, in every shape, had been universally condemned. Gladstone's formidable opposition prevailed, no attempt being made to frame a Standing Order.
The matter was discussed before the Select Committee on House of Commons Procedure that reported in 1914. Asquith said he had always been in favor of carrying things over, but recognized it was an opinion shared by hardly any of the great Parliamentarians of his time. He recalled that not only Gladstone but also Sir William Harcourt strongly opposed the idea. J. Ramsay MacDonald said he would be quite willing to let a bill be carried over at the end of the Committee stage, but not before. Sir Courtenay Ilbert attached no great importance to the proposal, because often in the course of discussion of a bill it is found that it ought to be very much re-cast, and its friends would be much hampered if they should be tied down in the succeeding session to the bill introduced in the session before. So he thought no great amount of time would be saved by carrying over. The Draft Report recommended by the Chairman and supported by three members of the Select Committee would have provided for a day toward the end of a session when the House should decide what if any bills that had passed through Committee or reached a later stage, should be carried over to the next session. Upon motion therein put without debate, a bill as carried over should maintain its position.
Michael MacDonagh says in "The Pageant of Parliament” (II, 225) that the proposal to carry over uncompleted bills has always been consistently rejected by the House of Commons on the ground principally that the power of the Government would be greatly strengthened by any system that would facilitate the rapid progress of business, which is regarded as a thing not at all to be desired.
Some relief has been applied in the matter of private bills, such as those relating to railway construction or municipal utilities. They are treated by a semi-judicial process highly expensive to both sides, and it would be absurdly wasteful to require a repetition of this because the work had not been finished by the end of a session. So, usually in the few cases when the business is not completed, a special order provides that the parliamentary steps already taken shall be taken again formally at the opening of the next session, letting the affair proceed from the point it had reached.
The French Senate remains indefinitely in possession of all matters not completed, the theory being that as it is renewed by thirds, it is continuous. In the lower branch a measure is not dropped at the end of a session, but survives during the continuance of the Chamber. Only upon complete renewal of the Chamber is the slate wiped clean.
In this country constitution-makers have not always discriminated with precision in the use of the words "adjourn" and "prorogue." Jefferson gave it correctly in his Manual, following the English definition, and the courts have held "adjournment” equivalent to "postponement,” but the implications of "adjournment” are not always meant when the word is used in provisions about legislative sessions. However, the principle is observed, and in nearly all our lawmaking bodies everything dies with the end of the session. Soon after the Federal Constitution was put into effect, Congress decided on that rule, but the inconveniences of its application to the two sessions of a single Congress led in 1818 to provision that business should go over from one session of the House to the next, though not beyond the life of the Congress. Uncertainty whether this applied to House bills that had not been acted on in the Senate brought in 1848 a joint rule meeting the case. It remained to provide for committee work, and in 1860 the rule was amended so that all business before committees should be resumed at the next session of the same Congress.
The seriousness of the situation may be gathered from the fact that of 900 bills reported to the House in the 65th Congress, 435 were still pending at adjournment. Though the work was cleaned up somewhat better in the 66th, yet of 1095 bills reported to the House, 316 failed to get action before the end of the term.
The 67th House was widely criticized by the uninformed on the score of general inefficiency, yet at any rate mathematically it excelled its predecessors with 1450 committee reports, and adjourned with only 280 reported bills pending, but to accomplish this result required four sessions, covering 624 calendar days out of 730, and even at that one fifth of the work, measured by number of bills, was unfinished.
Georgia, with biennial elections and annual sessions, like Congress continues unfinished business from the first session of a term to the second, giving it there the same place in the calendar that it held at the end of the first session."
Indiana with biennial sessions provides by statute that the unfinished business of any session goes into the calendar of the next in the same order in which it stood at the termination of the previous session; and may be taken up and disposed of in the same manner in which it might have been disposed of at the previous session, subject to such change in rules of procedure as either House may make. The latest “Rules" at hand show no reference to the subject.
There may be other States having like provision, but it is not common. Yet with the steady growth in the pressure of business, more attention is likely to be paid to the practice. Clearly there is now great waste of effort in going over the same ground session after session. To be sure, there are advantages in the way of preventing bad legislation, but whoever does not assume that all laws anybody else wants are inevitably unwise, must admit that some desirable laws get unnecessary labor to a deplorable degree before at last they have run the long gantlet. Would any great harm follow if the approval of House or Senate stood through following sessions unless reversed in the same
i Park's Annotated Code (1914), sec. 349. . Burns' Annotated Indiana Statutes, sec. 755-7.
branch by positive action? Or why not let a favorable committee report survive unless a subsequent House should see fit to recommit the matter? This would not be permitted to lessen the time spent on controverted questions of importance, but it might get out of the way more quickly some of the minor matters that now waste much time in the mere moving of the machinery.
Congress is looking toward more continuity of action. Hope that some day it may achieve real reform came with the preparation of a tariff bill by the Ways and Means Committee of the 54th Congress, and its presentation on the first day of the 55th, and also the introduction of the General Deficiency Bill, which had failed in the 54th because of a Senate amendment. Another straw was thought to be the law enacted by the 53rd Congress, providing that the Speaker of one Congress should appoint a Committee on Accounts from the members elected to the next Congress, to serve during the interval before the meeting of the new House. Yet few if any important steps toward the desirable end have since been taken. The reform drags.
Technical difficulties make it awkward to correct the situation. The courts are disposed to limit strictly the powers of a legislative body to the duration of its life. For example, in Cliff v. Parsons, 90 Iowa 665 (1894), when the Secretary of a Senate was displaced and he contended that under Sec. 13 of the Code his term was to continue during the session at which he had been elected, the Court, holding that the statute abridged the constitutional powers of the Senate to choose its own officers in such manner and for such time as it might please, pointed out that no General Assembly has any power to control the right of either House of any subsequent General Assembly in this respect. It has long been familiar law that, as was held in Brighton v. Kirner, 22 Wis. 54 (1867), one Legislature cannot bind another as to the mode in which it shall exercise its constitutional power of repeal or enactment. However, if the will to meet the situation should presently develop, there is little doubt that custom would soon give the weight of law to such practices as might be adopted, so that successive Legislatures would accept continuity as a procedure not to be questioned.
Two of the new European Republics have begun an interesting
experiment that may much lessen the volume of unfinished business. In Poland if the Senate does not within thirty days raise any objection to a bill that has come from the lower branch, the President is to direct its publication as a statute. In CzechoSlovakia the Senate must within a month act on budget and army bills coming from the Chamber, and within six weeks on other bills; the Chamber must within three months act on bills from the Senate. Otherwise assent is to be presumed. In the case of expiration of term, prorogation, or dissolution in the course of the period thus prescribed, a like period is to be allowed from the first day of the next session. Herein CzechoSlovakia abandons the rule that bills die with the end of a session. The two branches may by agreement alter the periods prescribed, but, though the language is not clear, it would seem that this cannot be done in the case of budget and army bills. Other countries have devised ways for the lower branch to coerce the upper, but as far as I have observed this is the only case where the upper can compel the lower to act or else acquiesce.
In such a practice those who want more of result from our legislative bodies can see marked advantage. Those who want legislation hindered and lessened will see in it little but harm. Anyhow, it should save much waste of effort.
LESSENING THE WORK To meet the ever-growing pressure by lessening the volume of work to be done within the limits of sessions, is a tendency that appears in many directions. Resort to recess committees and other expedients for preliminary preparation has been discussed in "Legislative Procedure" (pp. 175, 577). A subsidiary advantage of the budget reform as generally applied looks in the same direction. How this can be carried farther is illustrated by provisions to be found in the Mexican Constitution. If that document had been more respected, it would have more weight as an authority, but although no conclusions as to efficiency can be drawn, yet as matter of interest we may note a programme that might have happier results elsewhere. The revision of 1917 continued an institution that had been known for many years — a standing committee to sit during recesses. It is composed of fourteen Senators and fifteen Representatives,