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other, it is fatal to good legislation. That is precisely what occurs in Oklahoma. The attitude of members toward measures of major importance is determined by their party tie; the attitude of the party is determined by the stand taken by its opponent and by its own estimate of popular sentiment; once that attitude is determined, the party's legislative program tends to become a series of attempts to win public approval for that attitude and to put the opposition in as unfavorable a light as possible. The merits or demerits of any legislative proposal must be subordinated to this program. With regard to measures that do not have an aspect of political importance; the practice of “logrolling” holds sway. Representatives of districts possessing public institutions form a league, offensive and defensive. Members who propose local or special bills exchange votes and influence. Even the most conscientious legislators seem to feel little compunction about voting for bills with which they have no sympathy just because the author is a "good fellow” whose feelings ought not to be hurt, or because previous support of their own pet measures has imposed upon them an obligation to respond in kind. In all this traffic the interests of the people, whose agent the Legislature is supposed to be, receive scant attention. Small wonder, then, that the product is so often detrimental to the state.
Finally, the Legislature has failed to face the vital problems of the state and to attempt their solution. Legislation relating to subjects that have been topics of public discussion, that seriously affect the economic or moral welfare of the state, is either not attempted at all, is lost in the maze of legislative procedure, or passes one house only to fail in the other. Bills for increasing the salary of county treasurers, for establishing a session of the county court at some ambitious town, or for making, some minor change in the existing statutes have a good chance to become the law of the land. Remedial or constructive legislation of real importance, however, is very unlikely to receive serious consideration, still less likely to be considered favorably. Yet responsibility to the electorate for this dereliction of duty is not enforced. Talk as we may about the rule of the people, there seems to be no necessary connection between what the people wish enacted and what the Legislature actually enacts. Experience of such legislative impotence or inertia accounts to a large degree for the popular contempt of lawmakers.
"Freak" or unwise legislation; imperfect drafting of laws, both as to form and substance; partisan politics and legislative bargaining; irresponsibility, weakness and evasion of vital issues: these are the sins of the Legislature of Oklahoma. What are their causes; how can they be remedied? As a matter of fact, responsibility for this condition can be traced to no single cause; it is the joint product of many and diverse influences. These influences may be summarized, however, as consitutional limitations, poor organization and inferior membership.
Causes for Poor Legislation
The imposition by the Constitution of an excessive amount of limitations upon legislative action tends to break down that body's efficiency. These limitations reduce the area over which the Legislature may exercise authority, and therefore reduce its power to deal effectively with problems as they arise. By throwing the doubt of unconstitutionality over every law, they hinder efficient enforcement of such legislation as is passed. Finally, by reducing the power of the Legislature, they make a seat in that body unattractive to many men of ability, and thus reduce the caliber of its membership. It is to be hoped that in framing our next Constitution we shall return to first principles, make that document an instrument broadly organizing the structure of the government and guaranteeing such rights as are deemed fundamental, and leaving to the Legislature its proper task of detailed lawmaking.
Much of legislative inefficiency is due to poor organization. The reduction of compensation after the first sixty days of the session have elapsed results in a practical limitation upon the length of sessions. Sixty days in every two years is no adequate time to be devoted to the consideration of laws for a modern American state. The first thirty days are given over almost entirely to the introduction and preliminary consideration of measures. Approximately one thousand bills—an average of seven for each member—are introduced in each session. Many of these are hastily and carelessly drawn, necessitating careful revision if they are to be made laws. The really important work of the Legislature, the actual grinding out of legislation, is done in the last month, and by far the greater amount is done in the last ten or fifteen days. This results in hasty, ill-considered legislation, and is responsible for many mistakes in technique and policy. Cumbersome legislative procedure, by requiring members to pass through a long stage of apprenticeship and by offering numerous opportunities for mistakes or wilful delay, adds its contribution to legislative inefficiency. Moreover, the bicameral form of organization encourages partisan politics and irresponsibility. Each house attempts to shift the responsibility for unpopular action or inaction to the other. As a matter of fact, the voter, with two plausible explanations of the situation urged upon him, becomes bewildered and is unable to decide who is to blame. The difficulty of enforcing responsibility is increased by the fact that the elections occur ordinarily a year and a half after the adjournment of the previous session, by which time the issues there raised have been forgotten or are but dimly remembered.
Finally, it must be admitted that the quality of the personnel of our lawmaking body is not as high as it should be. Democracy at its best calls for the supervision and control of the general policy of the government by the people; it also demands that the people shall entrust the detailed work of legislation necessary to put that policy into effect to representatives who are the intellectual and moral leaders of the state. The truth is, however, that in Oklahoma the Legislature is neither below nor above the general level of the citizenship. This means that we entrust legilation—a task which requires the highest degree of intelligence and of character—to a body which is of only average grade in these characteristics. It is probable that only onethird of the members of any session are really efficient legislators. These form the leaders of the assembly, but being in the minority their leadership is hampered and curtailed by the less able members. This shortage of able members may be traced to several causes. Constitutional limitations and infrequent and abbreviated sessions have, as we have seen, reduced the power of the Legislature to deal effectively with the state's needs. Membership in such a body does not appeal to men of ability and ambition, and they do not become candidates unless impelled by an exceptionally welldeveloped sense of public duty or by a hope of using the office as a means to political advancement. The low salary makes service in the Legislature a financial sacrifice, and keeps out many desirable men. The smallness of legislative districts also plays an important part in reducing the caliber of the membership by facilitating the election of mediocre candidates who would be eliminated automatically by their obscurity if legislators were chosen from larger districts. Moreover, the large number of new members in every Legislature reduces the general quality of the whole. Experience makes a fair legislator good, and a good legislator better, yet reelection is the exception, not the rule. In 1911, only 17 per cent of the members of the House of Representatives had served in previous sessions. In 1917, 1919, and 1921, the percentages of experienced men were 24, 39 and 27, respectively. Over half of the members of the House at every session are serving their first term in any legislative body. The Senate contains more experienced men, partly because half of the members have held over from the previous session, partly because reelection of senators is more common and partly because members of the House are frequently "promoted” to the Senate. The fact that the Senate is slightly more efficient than the House is chiefly due to the greater legislative experience of its members.
The rehabilitation of the Legislature, therefore, depends not upon one but upon many factors. Because the task is so complex, because it involves the change of many things which we have come to regard as politically sacred, it will be difficult, but because the Legislature is the living soul of the entire governmental organization the task must be attempted.
A Unicameral Legislature
An essential step is to abolish all but the most fundamental constitutional restrictions on legislative action, to remove from the Constitution all elements of a temporary or non-essential character. A legislative reference bureau should be established to aid legislators in the formulation and the technical perfection of bills. Legislative procedure should be reformed and simplified. Finally, a fundamental change should be made in the organization of the Legislature itself. The bicameral system should be abolished in favor of a single chamber. The advantages claimed for the bicameral legislature are the representation of different interests in the two houses and the checking of hasty and illconsidered legislation. We have no special interests that require particular and distinct bases of representation in Oklahoma, and if we did have them, the present bicameral organization, in which the constitution of the two houses differs only in length of term, size of electoral districts and a four years variation in the age required for membership, is not adapted to such representation. The reputed merits of a second house as a checking and revising body have not been apparent. Where, as with us, the two houses are elected upon practically the same basis, they tend to act alike, if controlled by the same party; if opposing parties control, the result is deadlock, not revision, while the people find it impossible to enforce responsibility for the deadlock because they cannot tell who is to blame.
It seems desirable that in Oklahoma the Legislature should consist of about fifty members elected from twentyfive districts. The legislative terms should be fixed at four years, one-half of the members retiring every two years. Their compensation should be fixed at a sum commensurate with the importance of the office, not less than one thousand