Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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BILL A bill is a draft of a law presented to a legislative body for enactment. In the British parliament it is a form of statute submitted to the house of lords or commons, and becomes an act after passing both houses and receiving the royal assent. It is the same in the American congress, with the exception that under its rules, a joint resolution may be construed to be a bill. In English legislation no bill can become a law without the sovereign's assent. In American legislation a bill may become a law without the sanction of the president, provided, that after its disapproval by the executive, upon its re-consideration by congress. Two-thirds of both houses shall agree to pass the bill. It is also provided by the constitution that if any bill shall not be returned by the president within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be law. In England. Previous to the reign of Henry VI., the form of proceeding was by petition from the house of commons, with the concurrence of the house of lords and prelates, assented to by the king, and enrolled thereafter by the judges or others of the king's council. Frequently by modification or addition to the subject matter presented by the commons, or by abridgment in the answer of the crown, the certain purpose of the proceeding was defeated As early as the reign of Henry V. the house of commons remonstrated, and insisted that the statutes would be framed in strict accordance with the petition. The opposition to these evils became so intense, that in the succeeding reign of Henry VI the practice was established of presenting the matter for which the sovereign's approval was entreated, in the form of a bill, and since that period the rule has been engrafted upon English constitutional law, that nothing shall be enacted without the consent of the commons; and while the crown, at its option, may reject or assent to the bills of parliament, it can not alter them. But the rule is likewise established, that if the crown is specially interested in a bill, its assent must be obtained before its passage by the two houses; and should the royal patronage in anyway be affected, royal assent must be had before any proceedings are begun. The English rule also prescribes that the purport of a bill of attainder, or a bill granting titles, before presentment in parliament, must be laid before the sovereign. In early times the chief duty of the commons when summoned by the crown, was, at its dictation, to vote its supplies. The custom is partially preserved as the house of commons will not entertain a supply bill unless the crown first submits it. A bill granting a pardon is always first signed by the sovereign before any proceedings are entertained, and is subject to but one reading in each house of parliament. A bill consists of a preamble stating the need of the particular legislation, and the enacting clauses. Bills are of two kinds, public and private. A public bill relates to matters in which the public generally are interested. A private bill is for the particular interest or benefit of an individual, a private corporation, or a town or county.


—The procedure with regard to bills is in many respects similar in both English and American legislation. In fact, American parliamentary law has been moulded after that of the English. Any member can introduce a hill in congress on one day's notice (unless by unanimous consent) in the senate, and in the house every Monday, and at other times by unanimous consent. There are under the rules three readings of every bill, two of which are usually by the title only: the first on its presentment, the second at least one day later, and the third before the vote on its final passage. In cases of emergency, however, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a vote of two-thirds, all the proceeding may take place on the same day. On the second reading the bill is either committed or ordered to be engrossed and read a third time. If committed. It is then referred to committee of the whole house, or to a standing committee, which the speaker names. When ready to report, the chairman, or some member of the committee to whom the bill was referred, presents a written report to the house, with or without amendments to the bill, as the case may be, and the committee is discharged from its further consideration. Upon order of the house, however, the same matter may be re-committed to them; in that event the whole question comes before the committee de novo, and they proceed again upon its consideration as if nothing had passed. After the bill has been read a second time, if no proposition for commitment be made, its is read by paragraphs, and if it has come from the other house the order is, whether it shall pass to the third reading. If it originates with themselves the question is, whether it shall be engrossed and read a third time. After the bill is passed it can not be altered in any particular; its title, however, can be amended. The bill is then sent by message to the other house, requesting its concurrence. After its passage by both houses it is enrolled on parchment, certified by the clerk or secretary of the house in which it originated, and sent to the joint committee on enrolled bills for examination. Having been signed by the speaker of the house and the president of the senate, and entered (by title) on the journal of each house, it is presented finally to the executive for his approval. (See ACT.)


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