Imagens das páginas

count of the great facilities afforded gentlemen for reaching their homes by means of the railroads. If you will look at the Rules and Orders of the last House, you will find that more than one third of the members boarded at home, within the range of sixty miles. It is impossible to get evening sessions, as we used to have during the last part of the session. I recollect before we had these facilities for traveling, we used to have sessions at nine o'clock in the morning and continue the session until six in the evening, and then the legislative sessions did not exceed ninety days. But during the last three or four years, since the construction of so many railroads, affording such facilities for members to reach home, they will go home every day, and there are enough of them, with the Boston members, to vote to adjourn when they ought not to adjourn, in order that they may reach the cars in time. I do not think that the Legislature does more business than formerly. You cannot get committees together in the morning, or evening, because members have gone home.” 1

Since then the effect of rapid transit has become even more important. More than three quarters of the members of the Massachusetts Legislature now live at home through the session, for the most part carrying on their private affairs much as usual. Inevitably sessions are much longer than in States where the capital is less accessible. In most of the States, indeed, the greater part of the members have nothing but legislative work to take their attention during five days of each week, and they can attend to it with little distraction. For this reason not a little is to be said in favor of having the State House in a small place, not too easily reached. On the other hand, there is undoubtedly force in what President Lowell of Harvard University said to a committee of the New York Constitutional Convention, June 10, 1915. “Massachusetts," he declared, "has one advantage over New York, which is not an inconsiderable one, and that is, as the Legislature sits in Boston, it gets a great deal better chance to hear public opinion, and to get men coming there constantly, before the committees. There are a great many more appearances of citizens at committee hearings than in any other Legislature that I know of in the United States, and that is an advantage." . This seems

[ocr errors]

1 Debates in Mass. Conv. of 1853, 1, 782. 2 N.Y. Conv. Doc. No. 14, 129.

to me a more serious consideration than that which caught the attention of Mr. Bryce. He thought that since a small town is neither attractive socially nor convenient for business men or lawyers, the placing of a capital in such a town has an unfavorable effect on the quality of legislators. It may be that the ablest men of a State, living for the most part in or near its largest city, will be less willing to make the sacrifice of legislative service if its work must be done in some place distant from their homes, but it is not conspicuous that in States where the capital is in the largest city the members from that city are markedly superior to those coming from the smaller places.


No great importance seems at first to have been attached to the time of convening the Legislatures. Four of the original States did not at the start take the trouble to cover the matter in their Constitutions, but now provision is made everywhere. Three of the States specify that the date shall be as determined by law, and nine naming a date, permit another to be substituted by law. The rest name a date without alternative. In Iowa and Nevada the Governor may convene before the prescribed time.

Congress is to assemble on the first Monday in December, "unless they shall by law appoint a different day." This clause did not appear in the draft of the Constitution recommended to the Federal Convention by the Committee on Detail, but was inserted on motion of Mr. Randolph, seconded by Mr. Madison, by a vote of eight States to two. It seems to have been a compromise between those who would leave the matter entirely to Congress, and those who feared that in such case disputes would arise. The report of the debate does not indicate that anybody thought of having the President take any part in the matter, other of course than might result from his power of vetoing a bill setting or changing the date. It seems to have been taken for granted that it was prudent to authorize the President to convene Congress “on extraordinary occasions," although the right to convene the Senate by itself did not go without question. The expression of his power to call what has come to be known as a special session, may or may not be held to exclude Congress from exercising such a power by itself. The question came near having more than academic importance while President Wilson was abroad, negotiating the Peace Treaty in 1919. Upon the ending of the 65th Congress, it was feared in some quarters that the President might not at once summon the 66th, and as important appropriation bills that had failed of passage ought to be taken up again at once, the dilemma would be serious if the President failed to act. Senator La Follette urged a change in the Constitution to meet such exigencies, so that Congress could convene itself. Others believed there was no need for such an amendment, thinking the power already in existence. The President, however, deprived the contention of immediate consequence by calling a special session.

The Legislatures of three of the States may have a free hand in the matter through the chance that tied it up with the New England custom of having two sessions a year. The original Massachusetts Constitution (1780), specifying that the legislative body should meet every year on the last Wednesday in May, added — "and at such other times as they shall judge necessary.” This clause survived when the meeting time was changed from May to January and regular sessions became annual. No change in this respect was made when biennial elections were adopted, in 1918. New Hampshire copied the provision in 1784, and Connecticut in 1818. Yet in 1920 when the matter bade fair to be of importance in Connecticut by reason of the desire to secure ratification of the Federal amendment granting suffrage to women in time for them to take part in the presidential campaign, former Governor Baldwin, a jurist of high standing, was quoted as holding that the Legislature could not convene itself.

The issue was raised in Oklahoma in September of 1923 when a majority of the members of the Legislature, which was not then in session, gathered in the State House to determine whether Governor Walton should be impeached. Refused admission to the legislative chambers, they tried to proceed in the corridors, but under warrant of the state of martial law that had been proclaimed, the commanding officer of the military district ordered and compelled the assemblage to disperse. Although the members contended that their meeting was legal and declared their intention of taking the question to the courts, judicial determination was prevented by decision to put on the ballot, at a special election about to be held, the question of authorizing a special session. The people voted such authority, and the Governor was thereafter in due course impeached and removed.

If the question ever reaches the courts, it does not seem to me probable that they will hold it within the power of a Legislature to convene itself in the lack of constitutional direction as to procedure. Possibly, though, the signature of a majority appended to a call would be held sufficient if ample notice had been given and the rights of a minority protected in all other respects. The Louisiana Constitution of 1921 wisely took thought of the contingency by providing that if the Governor should ignore a petition for a special session signed by two thirds of the members, the Lieutenant-Governor or the Speaker of the House or both of them should issue the call.

At any time the question may become serious in those States where the Legislatures regularly assemble only once in two years, and of course the chance of trouble is greater with quadrennial sessions. Naturally its importance attracted the attention of Governor O'Neal of Alabama, which has the quadrennial system. He told the Alabama State Bar Association in 1917 that “the right of the people through their trusted representatives to make, revise, or repeal laws, should not be dependent upon the pleasure or caprice even of the Governor.” Such a view seems incontestable. Nothing in our Constitutional history suggests that the framers of our Constitutions, State or Federal, ever contemplated that the legislative branch should be under the control of the executive branch in this particular. On the other hand, the universal distrust of the executive branch that prevailed when our early Constitutions were framed, leaves little doubt that if their authors had thought it necessary to particularize, they would have declared the legislative branch to have at least equal power with the executive in the matter of assemblage.

The President of France must, in the course of a recess, convene the Houses on the request of an absolute majority of each. The German Constitution adopted in 1919 provided that in case of adjournment, the Reichstag is to determine the day of reassembling, but its President must call it together at an earlier date on demand of the President of the Commonwealth or of one third of the Deputies. The National Ministry is to convene the upper branch on demand of one third of its members. Likewise, in the Irish Free State the Chamber is to fix the date of reassembling, but no provision appears for earlier convocation on demand of members. The Constitution of CzechoSlovakia provides that on the application of half the members of either Chamber, made to the Prime Minister, the President must summon an extraordinary session, and furthermore that if four months have elapsed since the last ordinary session, two fifths of either branch may compel summons within a fortnight. The President of Poland may convoke the Sejm at any time and is bound to do it within two weeks on request of one third of the Deputies. In Austria the President of either House must call it together immediately on demand of a quarter of the members or of the Federal Ministry. Although the chief lawmaking body in Russia, the Central Executive Committee, is to meet anyhow three times a year in regular session, it seems to have been thought prudent to provide that extraordinary sessions shall be held on the decision of the governing committee (the Præsidium) of either branch, or on demand of the Central Executive Committee of one of the Republics. What might be called the Super-legislature, the Congress of the Soviets, which is to meet once a year, may be convened in extraordinary session by the Central Executive Committee on its own decision, or on demand of either of its branches or of any two Republics. The State Assembly of Esthonia likewise has a Præsidium, which may summon an extraordinary session, and it must so do on demand of a quarter of the members or of the Government. In Egypt the King must convene the Parliament on petition signed by an absolute majority of either House.

In Italy, where annual assemblage is not prescribed, Premier Giolitti announced in the summer of 1920 what was described as a concession to the Chamber of Deputies, in the shape of power to convoke itself instead of having to wait for a royal summons. The initiative was put in the hands of the nine standing committees, which by majority action might require the Government to issue a call, the Government, however, having the right to name the dates at which the session should begin and end. This was looked upon as an important increase of parliamentary power.

American Legislatures are for the most part convened about two months after their election. A different practice in the case

« AnteriorContinuar »