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Mr. Ashley Cockrill, chairman of the Committee on Public Improvements and Local Assessments, stated that he had prepared a report, but failed to secure its approval by any of the other members of the committee. He read the report. Mr. W. F. Coleman of Pine Bluff, read what he called a "Minority Report" and Mr. T. S. Osborne of Fort Smith read a short paper upon the same subject.
Upon motion the entire matter, including these reports and papers, were referred to the new committee, with instructions to report at the next meeting.
The secretary read his report, as follows:
Mr. President and Members of the Association:
The usual duties of the office have been performed. The minutes of the last meeting were prepared for publication by your secretary. I have endeavored to do my part in arranging for this meeting and know that all has been done that I could do to increase the interest and attendance. Letters were written to all the judges in the State and so far as we know only one court is in session. Reduced railroad rates were secured.
I have collected, since last report, 1909 dues, $289, and 1910 dues, $670, which has been delivered to the treasurer as shown by his report.
Roscoe R. LYNN, Secretary.
The treasurer's report was read by the secretary, as follows:
To the President and Members of the Association:
Your treasurer submits his statement of receipts and expenditures since the last meeting, with vouchers attached, as follows:
STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT
Balance as shown by last report.
(1) Arlington Hotel, contribution to banquet expense
$ 103.40 (2) Postage
8.00 (3) Bourland & Cox, stenographers......
20.00 (4) Democrat Ptg. & Lith. Co., stationery, etc. 12.75 (5) Democrat Ptg. & Lith. Co., stationery, etc. 6.25 (6) Postage
9.00 (7) Postage
240.75 (9) Postage, distributing minutes
33.00 (10) Expenses trip to Pine Bluff
4.80 (11) Circular letter
3.00 (12) Postage
8.00 (13) Exchange on checks
-45 (14) Secretary's salary
$ 578.12 Respectfully submitted,
P. C. DOOLEY, Treasurer.
The president appointed Charles Coffin, S. H. Mann and D. E. Bradshaw as Auditing Committee.
The association adjourned until 2 p. m.
AFTERNOON SESSION-SECOND DAY.
The Auditing Committee reported as follows:
We have examined the books of the secretary and the report of the treasurer hereto attached and find them correct.
Judge J. E. Martineau read report of the Committee on Practice in the Chancery Court, as follows:
To the President and Members of the Association:
The Committee on Practice in Chancery Courts recommends as tollows:
1. That a law be enacted empowering chancery courts to pass upon their jurisdiction in the removal of causes from one court to another.
2. That the following law authorizing chancellors to render decrees, and make orders in vacation, be passed :
The chancellor may deliver opinions, and make and sign decrees in vacation in causes taken under advisement by him at a term of the court; and, by consent of parties, or of their solicitors of record, he may try causes and deliver opinions, and make and sign decrees therein in vacation. Such decrees, and all other orders and decrees which a chancellor may make in vacation shall be entered and recorded on the minute books of the court in which the cause, or matter is pending, and shall have the same force and effect as if made, entered and recorded in term time, and appeals may be had therefrom as in other cases.
3. We recommend that a committee be appointed to present this matter to the General Assembly.
Jno. E. MARTINEAU,
1 his report was adopted, and referred to the regular Legislative Committee.
Mr. J. W. Blackwood read report of the Special Committee, which was apointed to devise a means of reducing special legislation, as follows:
To the President and Members of the State Bar Association :
Your Committee to whom was referred the duty of devising some means by which the evil of special legislation might be remedied beg leave to report: The Constitutional Convention of 1874 was composed of a body of able and patriotic men; most of them the leading lights of the bar at that time. They enacted sections 24 and 25, article 5 of the Constitution of that date, containing the following provision: "In all cases where a general law can be made applicable no special law shall be enacted.
No local or special bill shall be passed unless notice of the intention to apply therefor shall have been published in the locality where the matter or the thing to be affected is situated, which
notice shall be, at least, thirty days prior to the introduction into he General Assembly of such bill, and in the manner provided by law. The evidence of such notice having been published, shall be exhibited in the General Assembly before such acts shall be passed." This language at first sight, or even at second sight, would appear to be plain and unambiguous, and as mandatory upon the Legislature as the Queen's English could make it. The men who framed that Constitution doubtless labored under that delusion, but this delusion was of short duration and was soon dispelled by the constructive invasion of the Supreme Court. In the case Davies v. Gaines, in 48 Arkansas 370 (1886), the court found that the act in question, although a "Aagrant example of special legislation" and that the act was local in its operation and that a general law could have been framed, stated, “That nevertheless the Constitution leaves with the Legislature a very large discretion in determining when the general law can be made applicable.” The court states in substance that if it ventured to substitute its judgment for that of the Legislature it would enter upon a field where it would be hard to limit its authority, apparently ignoring the fact that the Legislature had proceeded in disregard of the Constitution which it had sworn to observe. This decision was followed in other opinions, and since then subsequent Legislatures, emboldened by the encouragement received from the Supreme Court, have continually and habitually violated the constitutional provisions. In disregarding them the Supreme Court sowed the wind and the result is we have had a succession of well developed crops of whirlwinds. We find now that when a member from any particular locality desires special legislation for his community, a township or county, he brings forward a bill and by a system of legislative courtesy or log rolling which now prevails, such bills are universally passed without any protest from the other members. The excuse given by members is this, “If I antagonize a member from another county, he in turn will kill my pet measure,” and this vicious, selfish and unsound idea pervades the proceedings of the body until the statute book is loaded down with special acts for stopping trains, fencing districts, drainage districts, and bills in reference to special schools. Lately another Pandora's box has sprung into existence in the shape of road districts. The man residing in a remote road district, not having sufficient influence to procure an appointment from the county judge, goes to his member, whom he has supported in the primary, and gets him to pass a law submitting the question of the election of the road overseer to the honest yeomen of the particular territory. By the use of means that usually prevail in primary elections, the important citizen comes out victorious, and he is entrusted with the honor, dignity and perquisites that pertain to this important position.
It may be inquired why does not the Governor veto these bills? He also has his troubles and his pet measures, and if he should undertake to withhold his approval from these special acts, he is left in the vocative as to the measures that are near and dear to his heart, and the result is that he takes his medicine and approves the bills without even a gentle protest, or twinge of conscience.
Until there is a higher order of statesmanship and more patriotism displayed by our legislators and executives than has been exhibited for the last thirty years, we need not look for any change in these affairs. Our recommendation, we feel, is futile, and will bear no fruit, but notwithstanding, we make the following:
1. A vast amount of special unnecessary laws could be covered by general laws, such as our numerous levy and drainage district bills, which are substantially copies of each other. A general law upon these subjects could be enacted and the law would thereby be better understood and the construction of which would enable the district to realize money at a less rate of interest and would inspire confidence in bondholders and money lenders.
2. A general law might be enacted covering the field now occupied by special laws, so framed as to render them applicable to local districts to be put in operation by the vote of the citizens under appropriate orders and supervisions of the county court. Laws stopping trains at gin houses, cow trails, etc., and ordering depots built at specified places, could be left to the railroad commission.
3. The adoption at the beginning of the session, before patriotism exhibited on the stump in election times, has become impaired, corrupted or tainted by methods that are sometimes resorted to by parties in interest, of rules and regulations in accord with the intention of the Constitution makers.
4. We would further recommend that the Governor and legislators should take hold of the matter at the beginning of the session in the right way, and announce that they would oppose every local bill where the required notice was not given. By such action a large amount of the local legislation would be-avoided. Many acts are passed where, if the notice was given, there would be such opposition to the acts that the attempt to pass them would fail. Much of the special legislation is wholly unnecessary. To make this plan effective both the Governor and each member of both houses of the General Assembly should co-operate and steadily oppose special unnecessary legislation. If this was done the rule now prevailing that all local matters are determined by the members of the localities affected would not have the full force which it now has. We are not unmindful of the fact that sometimes local legislation is both desirable and necessary. The decisions of the courts whether right or wrong are not now debatable questions, because vested rights have been built upon them and they are binding upon the courts and not subject to re-examination. But the provisions of the Constitution are as binding upon the conscience of the legislators as before the decisions were made and should not be lightly disregarded.
We attach here, as an appendix to this report, a table showing special acts from 1875 to 1907, inclusive, compiled by Mr. William Akers, of the