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and in Massachusetts and Rhode Island one. In other states the term is two years. In nearly all of the states the term for representatives is two years. Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have a four-year term, while Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island still have a one-year term. There is a general feeling that the term should be lengthened. It usually takes a term to familiarize the new legislator with legislative procedure and methods:3
(1) Legislative Sessions. The legislature in most states meets in regular session every two years. In the states which elect their representatives for one-year terms — New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts — and also in Georgia and South Carolina, the legislature meets annually. Alabama and Mississippi only hold regular sessions every four years. In all states, however, as has already been pointed out, the governor may call extra sessions whenever the exigencies of the situation demand. It was formerly thought that the legislature should meet frequently, but the number of bills introduced in recent years, and the unimportance of many of the subjects covered, has led many people to think that public interest would be as well served with less frequent sessions. Undoubtedly much time is wasted in the consideration of petty matters. To prevent this the constitutions of some states limit the length of the session to forty, sixty, or ninety days, or provide that the pay of the members shall cease at the expiration of that time, the hope being that fewer bills would be introduced. There is no doubt but that too many bills are introduced in all legislatures. Over 1,900 bills have already been introduced in the Wisconsin legislature during the present session. Limiting the session might reduce the quantity of legislation enacted, but it is doubtful if it would raise its quality. Sixty days is frequently too short a time to carefully consider important measures dealing with the industrial and economic interests of the state.
(2) Legislative Organization. The organization of state legislatures has been greatly influenced by that of congress. In the senate the lieutenant governor is the presiding officer, and in the house of representatives a speaker is chosen from its own membership. The speaker is usually the leader of the majority party in the house, and as such can exert a strong influence on the character of the legislation enacted. He calls the house to order, presides over its sessions, puts all motions and questions, en forces the rules of procedure, decides all points of order, recognizes those who wish to address the house, appoints the committees, signs all acts, and performs all the functions of the speaker of the national house of representatives at Washington. The powers of the speaker are usually greater than those of the lieutenant governor in the senate, since the lieutenant governor in some states does not appoint the committees. 4
In addition to the presiding officer of each house
there is a chief clerk, who prepares the calendar of its sessions, has the custody of all bills and resolutions, keeps the journal of the proceedings, reads the bills, calls the roll, and performs all the other functions of a secretary. He is assisted as a rule by several assistant clerks and bookkeepers. There is also a sergeantat-arms, who keeps order and carries out the rules of the house under the direction of the presiding officer. Then there are stenographers, doorkeepers, a chaplain, postmaster, pages, and other employes who look after the routine work incident to the recording, printing, proofreading, and enrolling of bills and laws in the process of passage.5
The actual work of the legislature is done by committees. Each house is divided into a large number of standing committees, as they are called, sometimes as many as fifty or sixty, and to these committees all bills and resolutions are referred. The number of members on a committee varies from six or eight to as high as thirty-five or forty, according to the committee and the purpose of its appointment. Usually the most important committees are those on the judiciary, finance, ways and means, state affairs, municipalities, education, corporations, agriculture, and labor, and these committees usually consist of from ten to fifteen members. The selection of these committees is one of the most important tasks of the presiding officer, for upon the makeup of the committees will depend the nature of their reports. The members are
usually so distributed that the dominant party has a majority on each committee. In addition to the standing committees, there are usually select committees appointed for special purposes, and joint committees composed of members from both houses. When the houses cannot agree upon a bill a conference committee is appointed from both houses to compromise the matter, and report a bill that both houses will accept.
(3) Legislative Procedure. Certain requirements with regard to legislative procedure are usually prescribed by the state constitution. Thus in all states each house is required to keep a journal of its proceedings. In most states no law can be passed except by bill, no bill can embrace more than one subject, and no law can be enacted without an opportunity having been given for a public hearing. Most states also require a bill to be read three separate times before passage, a provision which is usually satisfied merely by reading the title, since all bills are printed and placed in the hands of each member. But the ordinary rules of procedure are generally left to the determination of the houses themselves. One of the first things that each house does on assembling is to adopt its rules of procedure. It of course always adopts the rules of the preceding session without much modification, but an opportunity to make changes is always given.
While there is this opportunity for great variation, the actual procedure, as a matter of fact, is very much the same in all states. A bill passes through the same
stages in all. The first step is the introduction of the bill. This is done by a member of the house, who rises, addresses the presiding officer, and begs leave to introduce it. This is granted and the bill is sent by a page to the clerk, who reads the bill by title, after which the presiding officer announces the first reading of the bill. Usually the second reading and announcement immediately follow, although some states require readings on separate days. Upon the second reading the bill is referred to the appropriate committee for consideration and report. This committee then holds meetings and listens to the arguments for and against its provisions. Notices of the meetings are usually posted a week in advance in order to give those who wish to be heard an opportunity to reach the capitol from any part of the state. The member who introduced the bill usually appears before the committee at the beginning and explains its purpose and provisions, and then the others follow.? After the public hearing, the committee goes into executive session and either recommends the bill for passage, amends it, or recommends it for indefinite postponement, and returns it to the house where it is put on the calendar for a certain day, under the heading “ Bills ready for engrossment and third reading.” If so ordered, it goes to the engrossing clerks, who make all corrections and insert the amendments. On the following day it is put on the calendar for third reading and passage, at which time the final vote is taken and full opportunity for