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are elected by the voters of New York, and which can feel no responsibility to the city, is permitted to determine the license fee which every hotel-runner must pay, to regulate the rate of driving in our streets, to fix the number and the pay of our police, to direct the repayment of a street, and to impose upon us burdens of taxation without limit for build- , ings, or parks, or "improvements." The fact that one of the assistants to the corporation counsel is kept constantly at Albany during the session is generally known; but it is not generally appreciated that this has been found necessary, to prevent legislation which might almost be called robbery,—to save the city from the assaults of the legislature.
It is often said that the people of this city can make only a bad government for themselves. But this has not been proved. The experiments in self-government have not been allowed to continue without the interference of the legislature. We must manage our own affairs; and we must not expect to have them well managed for us. We deserve as good a government as we can make for ourselves, and we deserve no better.
EXPLANATION OF THE COURSE OF BILLS
IN THE LEGISLATURE.
The bills introduced in the legislature come from various sources, and members introduce them from various motives, -to oblige a friend or a constituent, to secure some personal benefit from a change in the law, to squeeze money out of corporations or rich individuals, to make a good record, and sometimes even to work some public benefit. Bills are commonly drafted more or less carelessly, by persons more or less incompetent, as is shown by the awkward,
incoherent, and contradictory laws which are ground out at the rate of nine hundred printed pages a year.
When a bill is introduced in the assembly, it is read the first time, and is also read immediately the second time. The “first reading" is merely the recital by the clerk of the enacting clause of the bill, and the “second reading" is a hurried announcement by the clerk of the title. The bill is then referred by the presiding officer to the standing committee having charge of legislation on the subject upon which the bill bears. The fate of most bills is decided in committee. A determination upon the part of the committee to smother or to kill a bill will commonly decide its fate. Last winter the chairman of one of the important assembly committees received $10,000 for his services in preventing a report from his committee on a measure affecting a very wealthy interest. The standing committee may give notice that at certain times it will hear arguments for or against the bill ; and at such times any advocates or opponents of the bill may speak. The committee may report the bill to the assembly with or without amendments.
If a bill is reported favorably to the assembly by a standing committee, and the report is accepted, it is then printed. A disagreement with a favorable report would send the bill back to the committee; but such a disagreement never takes place. If it is reported unfavorably, and the report is accepted, it is dropped, and may be brought up for consideration only by a vote of the assembly.
As a rule, the contents of a bill are not known to the members generally until it is reported, printed, and distributed. Chapter 710, laws of 1887, however, provides that hereafter all bills shall be printed in the “ Legislative Record” within twenty-four hours after they are introduced.
The bill is then considered in committee of the whole. In that committee the bill may be amended, or another bill upon the same subject may be substituted. No record of the votes in committee of the whole is kept, and the proceedings are not published in the journals. That this is so is to be regretted; for the committee of the whole, while a committee in name, is in fact and effect the assembly itself. Thus the committee of the whole may be used by dishonest members as a screen for crookedness. The theory upon which the committee of the whole exists is that at some point in the consideration of measures, members ought to have an opportunity to talk and to vote more freely than strict parliamentary rules will allow, and without the restraint imposed by an official record of the proceedings. Chapter 181, laws of 1887, provides for the printing of proceedings in committee of the whole, except debates and votes, and for the prompt printing of the journals. The present delay of from one to two weeks in printing is a serious inconvenience to all who attempt to follow the doings of the legislature.
If the bill is reported favorably by the committee of the whole, and the report is accepted by the assembly, the bill is placed on the order of third reading. If the assembly disagrees with a favorable report, or agrees to an unfavorable report, of the committee of the whole, the bill is deemed lost. When the bill comes up for a third reading, it may be read in full by the clerk. But the practice with all but very important bills is to read only the title, the enacting clause, and the numbers of the sections. At any time during the reading, debate and amendments are in order ; but after the reading of the last section no debate may take place and no amendment may be offered, and the final vote is immediately taken.
The course of a bill in the senate is the same as in the assembly; and a bill which has been passed by one house
goes through the same course in the other before it is ready for the governor's signature.
Often the same bills are introduced in the two houses. If such a bill passes one house and goes to the other, the bill as introduced in the second house is dropped in many cases, and action is taken only on the bill as received from the first house. But the house may treat the senate and the assembly bill as distinct. By formal motion either bill may be substituted for the other.
Upon a bill as printed in either house the letters G. O. followed by a number indicate the place of the bill in general orders; the mark Int. followed by a number is used to show the order in which bills are introduced. The phrase general orders refers to the order of considering bills in comunittee of the whole. The third number upon a bill, "No. —," is given when the bill is printed, and by it the bill is commonly cited. As a new number is given to a bill each time it is printed, and as bills are often printed afresh after undergoing amendments, a bill may appear under two or more numbers. The introductory number, however, remains unchanged. The date upon a printed bill is the day of introduction. Heretofore many bills introduced have never been printed.
A member may introduce a bill “by request” without any statement of the source of the request. But this manner of introducing bills is not considered to affect any responsibility that may be thought to attach to the act of introducing them.
The lobby is that indeterminate body, often called “the third house," composed of men who make it a business to influence by corrupt means the official action of members of the legislature [The methods of exerting this influence
are various; but the simplest and commonest is the payment of fixed sums to legislators for their votes. The lobbyist stands ready to defeat or to pass any bill for a consideration. Good citizens who would not think of offering bribes to members of the legislature directly will pay money to lobbyists with knowledge that it will be used to corrupt senators and assemblymen in the consideration of measures in which the good citizens are interested.
The lobbyists were organized during the session in two gangs,—the “Kenmore gang” and the “Delavan House gang.” The leaders of these gangs are notorious, and their calling is matter of common knowledge in Albany. The dealings of these men with the corrupt members of the legislature were so open and constant as to become matter of daily comment in and about the capitol. In several instances distinct hints of the connection between the lobby and the members were uttered in the senate and the assembly.
Before the new member of the legislature has been a week in Albany, and in some cases even before he arrives, the prominent lobbyists of the city are thoroughly informed as to his exact moral calibre, and what arguments and inducements are most likely to be of use in their work upon him. With some it is good fellowship and sociability, with far too large a number it is cold cash, and with others political preferment; while there is always a small, very small, number who are absolutely inaccessible. When the lobbyist has thus studied his ground, and made up his list, he knows just how and where to go to work, and can figure pretty closely as to whether it will cost much or little to pass or to defeat a certain bill, the amount being dependent largely on the popular interest in the measure and the attention paid to its progress in the public press. The amount of money that annually passes through the hands