Obrázky stránek

time to time still reveals a conviction in the public mind that the town is the proper administrator of such functions.95 No fire district can be organized under the general law until the town has first been requested and has refused to give such protection. The town having refused, in a district of 1,000 inhabitants, or of 500 inhabitants, in a town of less than 2,000, the selectmen or a justice may, on petition call a meeting to consider organization. Such a district, when organized, shall have power to provide fire protection, a water supply and street lights, and support them by taxation. The officers of the district are a moderator, clerk, treasurer and prudential committee. By-laws of the district must receive the approval of the superior court.

Alongside the districts thus created are others chartered by special act,96 and with powers not materially different from those conferred in the general law. Special act is resorted to freely to grant additional powers, particularly of a financial nature.97 Freemen of

Freemen of the corporation are the resident taxpayers. An analogous institution with perhaps a broader future, had its origin in 1870.99 The town meeting may authorize the organization of a district of not less than 1,000 inhabitants, as an “improvement district,” with authority to provide street lights, police, sidewalks, and libraries.100 The affairs of such districts are administered by officers of similar titles and powers as those of fire districts.

A third institution established by law is the "watch district" having powers "for protection of property against fire, thieves and robbers, and for keeping the streets quiet in the night time through the maintenance of a police force.” Such districts may be organized in any village of 1,000 inhabitants.101

os Revised Laws 1902, c. 32 and Supl. 96 Belchertown, A. & R. 1908, c. 310; South Hadley, No. 2, A. & R. 1909, c. 239.

07 Shelburne Falls, A. & R. 1905, c. 402; Wareham, A. & R. 1907, c. 178; Greenfield, A. & R. 1908, c. 506; Hinsdale, A. & R. 1910, c. 642.

os Belchertown, A. & R. 1908, c. 310.
9 A. & R. 1870, c. 332.
100 Revised Laws 1902, c. 25.
101 Revised Laws 1902, c. 332.

In addition to the foregoing forms of organization there exist by special acts of incorporation, “water supply districts” sometimes also possessing authority to supply electric lights.102 In all these different kinds of “districts” the persons incorporated are the persons "liable to taxation in said town and residing within” certain prescribed limits. 103

As the first step toward the substitution of a uniform system of village government in place of the present confused and confusing situation there was introduced in the General Court, in 1908, an act for “the establishment of village limits for the purpose of securing public conveniences and improvements, and authorizing the levying of taxes for the same.”104 The organization was to be brought about at a village meeting called by the selectmen on petition of a majority of the voters in the proposed district and the corporation was to include, not only all taxpayers, but all voters. The only officers prescribed were a president and clerk. The authority of such village was to extend to the providing of "sidewalks, sewer or public lighting systems, or any other improvements of a public nature.” To the present time no legislation has resulted from this movement.

Rhode Island has made no progress whatever toward a system of village government though the density of population and the comparatively large area of many of the towns would appear to offer a promising field for such a development. The same intense individualism which prevented the development of the towns into social units has hindered the growth of a public demand for village organization. No area smaller than the town is known to the general law though certain lesser taxing authorities have been incorporated by special act. The fire district form of organization is the only one which has been made use of extensively, and is usually authorized to provide fire protection and a water supply.105 To these powers have been

102 So. Deerfield, A. & R. 1902, c. 486; Dracut, A. & R. 1905, c. 433; Hadley, A. & R. 1905 c. 146; Miller's Falls, A. & R. 1907, c. 558.

103 Belchertown, A. & R. 1908, c. 310. 104 House Bill No. 286.

105 Phenix, Acts and Resolves 1872, p. 58; East Greenwich, A. & R. 1882, p. 238; Arlington, A. & R. 1889, c. 797; Watch Hill, A. & R. 1901, c. 946.




added in the more liberal charters, or by amendment to earlier ones, the power to provide street lights,106 public libraries," police and a bridewell,108 a sewer system, 109 gas supply, 110 road improvements and side-walks, 111 and electric power.112 The officers etc. of these districts are usually a moderator, clerk, treasurer, board of fire wards, and assessors.

Similar to the fire district in organization is the “lighting district” created for the purpose indicated by its name. No serious attempt is made to have fire district lines conform to town lines, and the confusion is heightened in at least one case from the fact that a lighting district is superimposed on a fire district but is not coterminous with it.114 Beyond these somewhat rudimentary beginnings nothing approaching village government is to be found in the state.

The study of these minor forms of municipal incorporation is hampered by the lack of exact information. In the three states of Vermont, Maine and Connecticut, statistics of population of villages and boroughs is available from the census of 1910, but in all the New England states, with respect to the various districts:fire, lighting, water, sewer, highway and improvement, -no statistics whatever are to be found. In four states these corporations come into being by the action of no higher authority than the selectmen or the people of the locality. In few, if any, cases is the district made an administrative division of the town. Dissolution usually depends merely on the action of the electors of the corporation. At no stage in its career is any return made

106 Valley Falls, A. & R. 1877, p. 31; River Point, A. & R. 1888, p. 31, 1904, c. 1202. 107 Central Falls, A. & R. 1882, p. 255. 108 Maryville, A. & R. 1896, c. 437; River Point, A. & R. 1904, c. 1202. 109 East Greenwich, A. & R. 1889, p. 91; Watch Hill, A. & R. 1901, c. 911. 110 Watch Hill, A. & R. 1901, c. 911. 111 Ibid. 112 Harrisville, A. & R. 1906, c. 1416. 113 Harris, A. & R. Washington, A. & R. 1911, c. 741. 114 Harris, A. & R.

115 In the town of Warwick, made up of one urban center, several manufacturing villages and surburban residence communities as well as a rural area, government by town meeting has proved a failure. But among the solutions of the difficulty now proposed and under consideration, one which would give some form of village incorporation to the larger centers of population finds few advocates.

to a state official, nor does any central authority make inspection of its acts or financial condition, and the statistical departments of the several states are unable to give even a complete list of these areas now in existence.

The work which the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics is now authorized to do in connection with the financial statistics of cities and towns will probably soon be extended to include the lesser taxing areas. From this source and from the Vermont law requiring financial reports to the secretary of state from cities, towns, villages, and school and fire districtsl16 a certain amount of information will undoubtedly soon be available, but at the present time the only sources of information concerning the constitution and functions of villages and the other lesser areas are the general statutes and the special acts relating to them. Concerning their actual operation there is nothing whatever to be found.

116 P. 6 supra. Laws of Vermont 1910, No. 11.




University of Wisconsin

A previous article attempted a summary of the contents of the Parliament Act of 1911 and a mention of its immediate ancestry. There followed notice of some historical alleviatory suggestions regarding the composition of the House of Lords and an analysis both of the actual provisions of the Act and of proposals alternative to them with respect to the powers of the Upper House in the matter of “money bills.”

This second article, continuing the method of the first, includes at the outset the question of the powers of the House of Lords as to "general legislation," i. e. public bills other than money bills. There follows reference to historical ancestry in these matters. Thus the consideration of the means by which the Act became law, that potential resort to the use of the royal prerogative by the temporary executive, may clear the way for speculation as to the significance of the Parliament Act as a whole.

Briefly the Act provides for a final reduction of the powers of the House of Lords as to general legislation to a suspensive veto operative against House of Commons measures only in two successive sessions; after a lapse of two years after the first introduction of the measure in the Lower House and on its third passage there the bill can become law on the royal assent being given, the Lords notwithstanding. 2

As previously we must turn now to the Conservative alternatives. They are scattered in House of Lords resolutions of 1910, in Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Referendum Bill of March,

1 American Political Science Review, VI. pp. 194–215. : For a fuller statement cf. Ibid, pp. 195–196.

« PředchozíPokračovat »