« AnteriorContinuar »
THE PEOPLE'S CHECKS UPON THE 1913 LEGISLATURE.
The 1913 session of the California Legislature was the first to convene under the new constitutional provisions governing legislative gatherings which had been submitted to the electors by the 1911 Legislature, and ratified at the polls, October 10th of that year. No California Legislature-probably no legislative bodyhad ever assembled under the same conditions.
No act of the session, except in the case of jealously guarded emergency measures, could, under the new referendum provision of the Constitution, become a law until ninety days after the Legislature had adjourned. In the event of the Referendum being invoked against an Act, it could not become a law until sanctioned by a majority of those voting at a State-wide election.
Of more direct effect upon the Legislature was the new Constitutional provision for the legislative recess.?
The change provides that regular sessions shall continue after convening for a period not to exceed thirty days. A recess for not less than thirty days is then made obligatory. On the reassembling of the Legislature, the introduction of no bill in either House is
1 See Article IV, Section 1, Constitution of the State of California, as amended October 10, 1911. This check had been upon the extraordinary legislative session which had convened in November, 1911, but the 1913 session was the first regular session at which the referendum provision governed.
2 See Article IV, Section 2, Constitution of the State of California, ratified October 10, 1911.
permitted, without the consent of three-fourths of the members of the House in which the introduction is sought, and, even with the three-fourths consent, no member is permitted to introduce more than two bills.
The object of this provision is to give the citizens of the State opportunity to examine measures under consideration in the Legislature. In theory, the bills will be introduced during the first part of the session. During the legislative recess of not less than thirty days, the citizens will not only have opportunity to inform themselves on pending legislation, but will be able to consult with their State Senator and Assemblymanwho will be able to return home from the State Capital during the recess—regarding any and all measures. How well this worked in practice the sequel will show.
When this provision had been under consideration at the 1911 session, the understanding was that no bills would be acted upon during the pre-recess session. But this restriction is not definitely made. There is, contrary to general opinion, nothing in the provision to prevent the Legislature, previous to the legislative recess, passing upon any or all bills that may be introduced.
Another thing, which led to much confusion during the first half of the session, was the change, under the power which The People had reserved to initiate laws, in the enacting clauses of legislative measures.
Before the adoption of the Initiative Amendment in 1911, the power to initiate laws did not repose directly in The People. The State Constitution provided every measure should contain an enacting clause to read: "The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows."
Under the Initiative Amendment to the State Constitution, the Senate and Assembly no longer constitute the sole lawmaking power. The People themselves also constitute a lawmaking body. Change in the enacting clause was therefore necessary. This change was provided in the Initiative Amendment of 1911. The changed enacting clause reads simply, "The People of the State of California do enact as follows."
Members of both Houses-probably a 'majority of each—when drawing their bills, instead of observing the new Constitutional provision, followed the wording of the Acts of previous legislatures. As a result, hundreds of bills were introduced, which, because of the incorrect wording of the enacting clause, were worthless. The corrections which this necessitated, and the trouble which it caused individual members, did more than any other one thing to impress upon the members of both Houses that a new political order prevails in California.
Another fact of prime importance which went far in influencing the work of the 1913 session, was that women had participated on an equal footing with men in selecting the eighty Assemblymen and twenty of the forty Senators. The influence of this was farreaching. It led to complete readjustment of political balances which had governed at former sessions. One important result was the complete elimination of the racetrack gambling element from consideration by legislators. Up to the 1911 session the organized gamblers were, on a moral issue, the most potent group at legislative sessions. They actually directed committee organization in their own interests. With the institution of women's suffrage in 1911, however, the racetrack gamblers were practically eliminated from California politics, and organizations of women became, on moral issues, the most potent power in the State. The members of the 1913 Legislature gave repeated evidence of appreciating this fact thoroughly.
Another new consideration was the liability of any member who gave offense to his constituents, to be recalled. The majority of the citizens of the various legislative districts, with the probable exception of the districts controlled by the San Francisco tenderloin, expect their Senators and Assemblymen to oppose legislation which is bad, and to support that which is good.
The appreciation of the provisions of the Recall unquestionably stimulated legislators to strive to meet the wishes of constituents who had in their hands the power of summary dismissal. Then, too, the potency of the Recall was constantly before them. One member4 had come to the Legislature after having defeated a hold-over Senator in a Recall election.
Thus, for the first time in the history of the State, The People of California had complete check upon their Legislature. They had opportunity to examine and pass upon the various measures which might be introduced. They had absolute veto power of the measures which might be enacted. In the event of the Legislature failing to enact any measure deemed desirable, they had
3 Women's organizations were represented at
Sacramento throughout the session.
4 Jones of Santa Clara. Senator Jones has the distinction of being the first to be selected at a Recall election, for place in a State legislative body.
the power to initiate such a law and themselves enact it independent of the Legislature. If any legislator acted contrary to the desires of a majority of his constituents, his constituents could immediately remove him, and name a successor to fill his unexpired term.
The 1913 Legislature was, too, the first to meet under the new apportionment of legislative districts. For twenty years, eighteen of the eighty Assemblymen and nine of the forty State Senators had been elected from San Francisco. This San Francisco delegationnumbering practically twenty-five per cent. of the Legislature—had been representative neither of the State nor of the city 5 from which it was elected.
5. The San Francisco delegation, for example, had session after session prevented submission to the electors of a Constitutional amendment providing for free distribution of school text-books. In the Senate, fourteen votes were sufficient to defeat such an amendment. The nine votes from San Francisco were session after session cast against it. Five votes from outside San Francisco, in addition to the nine San Francisco votes, were enough to defeat it. Up to the extraordinary session of 1911, these five votes were secured. At the 1911 extraordinary session, however, only three were available. These with the solid block of nine negative
Francisco votes made only twelve against the amendment, not enough for its defeat. The People of California were thus, in spite of the San Francisco Senators, given opportunity to say whether or not they wanted to supply their school children with free text-books. By overwhelming vote, The People decided for free text-books. The vote at San Francisco on this issue was significant. It was:
For free text-books-54,041.
Thus, San Francisco, whose legislative delegation had for years successfully opposed the free text-book policy, by a vote of three to one declared for free text-books. In this issue, the San Francisco delegation certainly was not representative of the community responsible for its presence at Sacramento.
That the San Francisco delegation has not been representative of San Francisco is shown as significantly whenever The People of that community are given opportunity to express themselves at the polls. For years, for example, the San Francisco delegation was the dependable element in the Legislature relied upon by the racetrack gambling supporters to prevent legislation which would interfere with the gambler's activities. Even when the gamblers were finally beaten at the 1909 session, and only seventeen Senators and Assemblymen voted against the_Anti-Gambling bill, fifteen of the seventeen votes were from San Francisco. And yet, when in 1912 The People of San Francisco were given op