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in his judgment, the most competent. The Attorney-General ought to have supervision over and be responsible for the conduct of all that class of officers, throughout the State, which is charged with the duty of prosecuting for crime and other violations of State laws. Prosecuting officers for offenses against the laws of the State, now erroneously called district attorneys, should not be county officers, but be.the deputies of the Attorney-General, appointed by him or by the Governor on his recommendation. In this way responsibility for the due enforcement of the laws could be brought home, as it should be, directly to the Governor, upon whom the duty is devolved to see that the laws are faithfully executed.
It appears to me proper that the Secretary of State and the AttorneyGeneral should be appointed by the Governor without the intervention of the Senate, and hold office during his pleasure; and that the Comptroller, a superintendent of canals, and a superintendent of prisons, should, with or without the consent of the Senate, be appointed by the Governor to hold office during his own term, but removable by him at any time for cause. These officers would form a valuable council to the Governor.
On the superintendent of canals should be devolved all the duties now performed by the three Canal Commissioners and the State Engineer.
The management of the prisons of the State needs great reform which cannot be secured by a mere change of officers; the system is at fault. A constitutional amendment has been suggested putting these institutions under the charge of a board of citizens who are not to be paid for their services. While that would be an improvement on the present system, reflection upon the subject has convinced me that a better amendment would be to supersede the present commission of three Inspectors (elected one every year by the people) by one Inspector of State Prisons to be appointed by the Governor and to be removable by him. An advisory or examining board of citizens might be valuable in addition; but for the actual administration of prison affairs and the appointment of all subordinate officers, it would be better to have the responsibility concentrated upon one man, that one man being accountable to the Governor, than to have this responsibility divided among the members of a board or a commission.
It might be well that the State Treasurer, being the actual custodian of the public moneys, and perhaps the Superintendent of Public Instruction, should be appointed by joint ballot of the two Houses of the Legislature; but all other administrative officers of the State, in addition to those heretofore named, should, in my judgment, be appointed by the Governor, with or without the consent of the Senate, so as to make his responsibility for the good management of the public affairs complete. In connection with this part of the subject, I would recommend that the term of office of the Governor be extended to three years, which was its duration under the first Constitution of the State. If these changes could be made in the Constitution, the people would have an opportunity once in three years, of putting out of power the entire administration and bringing in a new set of men, whereas now they can make only a partial change every year. It has occurred more than once in consequence of a part of them going out of office each year, that some of the administrative officers of the State have been one of party, and others of the opposing party; a condition of things that bewilders the
popular judgment when seeking to fix responsibility for maladministra
In the Legislative department there is great need of providing additional safeguards against faulty and special legislation. For twenty years past, the laws passed exceed an average of five hundred a year; for the last six years they average over eight hundred a year, and it requires now two very bulky printed volumes of above two thousand pages to record the acts of each session. There can be no necessity for this mass of legislation. More than one thousand bills are now passed in a session; as the session lasts only about one hundred days, it will be seen that at least ten bills a day have to be passed through both Houses, and as three readings should be had of each bill in each House, it is plain that deliberation by the members of the two Houses over proposed laws is impossible.
Notwithstanding the deference which it is natural that the executive should pay to the Legislature in matters pertaining to their special duty, that of law-making, I have found myself obliged, in the course of three sessions, to withhold my official approval from an aggregate of three hundred and ninety-one bills. In addition, more than one hundred bills have, after being delivered at the executive chamber, been recalled by the Legislature for reconsideration, in order to correct inaccuracies or strike out objectionable provisions, discovered in my examination of them. It is not right to rely solely upon the Governor to review proposed legislation. It must happen, under the present habit of passing laws, that bills will, at every session, receive the executive approval containing provisions which escape his scrutiny, and to which, if his attention had been called to them, he would have objected. The people must do their part, in guarding against improper legislation, when selecting their representatives in the Legislature; and the organic law should be so framed as to promote a wise selection.
Provision ought to be made in the Constitution securing the actual reading of every proposed law on three separate days in each House, and forbidding any substitute for the full and free discussion which pertains to consideration of a bill in committee of the whole House.
The provision in the existing Constitution limiting the session of the Legislature to one hundred days, has had no good practical effect. It has not lessened the amount of legislation; it has simply caused the members to act with the more haste. The restriction should be removed and a fair annual salary be paid to Senators and Assemblymen. There is no true economy in withholding from public servants a just compensation
for their labor.
As a better restraint upon undue prolongation of a session, I suggest that power should be given to the Governor to prorogue the Legislature at any time after it shall have been in session for one hundred days.
The chief office of a Senate should be to review the action of the other House, to check and restrain improvident, hasty or unwise legislation; and, for the best discharge of this duty, it should be composed of men well versed in public affairs. Its name imports that it is to be a council of men of long experience. Every inducement should be held out to attract the right men to service in this body. The public cannot expect, any more than a private person, to command valuable services unless it offers an adequate reward. This reward need not be wholly pecuniary; the dignity of an office is often a more powerful inducement to the class of men we need in the public service. A long term and a large
constituency would greatly enhance the dignity of the office of Senator, and make it attractive to our most distinguished citizens. If the Senatorial term were made four or five years and the State were divided into a small number of Senatorial districts, so as to throw the choice of Senator upon a large constituency, and the compensation made a fair one, I do not doubt that the ablest and most experienced of our public men. would be found ready to apply themselves, in the Senate, to the important duty of securing good laws for the people.
In the constitution of the House of Assembly no improvement suggests itself to me, except to abolish the single Assembly districts as now established, and restore county representation; that is to say, that every county shall elect the whole number of Assemblymen to which it is entitled upon a general ticket.
In respect to the judicial department, the action of the people is so recent in adopting the new sixth article of the Constitution (still further action on their part next year, upon the mode of selecting judges in the future, being also already provided for), that it would not be wise to have any changes made.
Among the general provisions of the Constitution, there ought to be one limiting the amount of indebtedness which municipalities may incur, and defining the purposes for which it may be incurred. Uniformity of the several classes of local governments, counties, towns, villages, ought to be secured by constitutional guaranty; so as to prevent special legislation with regard to them. It is impracticable, as I have already said, to frame a uniform charter for all our cities. But there are certain fundamental characteristics which ought to be found in all city charters, and ought to be secured by constitutional provision.
There should be more specific constitutional restraints upon legislative power to grant special charters for private corporations; upon special legislation generally; upon legislative awards of extra compensation to claimants under contracts and otherwise; all of which tend greatly to encumber the statute book, demoralize the Legislature, and deplete the treasury.
The veto power needs to be made more effectual. Two-thirds of all the members elected to either House should be required to overrule a veto, and where a bill contains several items of appropriation of money, the Governor should be authorized to refuse his assent to one or more of the items, while approving of others.
I have dwelt at this length upon the defects as they appear to me, of our present Constitution, as the best method of inviting attention on the part of the Legislature and the people to the subject.
The excitement of a long war, and the events succeeding it, have operated to divert our attention from our immediate home affairs. It is time we began to look to them.
The framers of the Constitution of 1846, eager for decentralization of power, made the mistake of supposing that this was to be effected by breaking apart and disconnecting the machinery whereby the State government is to be carried on, and by multiplying the number of elective officers. Decentralization consists in giving to the people of every county or other political subdivision complete control of their own proper local affairs, not in giving to the people of a county the selection of State officers, of officers whose duties are exclusively connected with the general affairs of the State and the enforcement of the laws of the State. It is singular that true decentralization, which is to be found in enlarg
ing the powers of the boards of supervisors of the several counties, was not provided for in the Constitution except by leaving the matter to be regulated by the Legislature.
Of the various methods by which a revision of the Constitution may be undertaken, my preference is for the appointment of a commission consisting of thirty-two members; and I recommend the passage of an act for the appointment of such a commission.
Mindful of the fact that the majority of the Legislature and the executive are of opposed political parties, I refrain from discussing questions connected with the administration of the federal government, upon which our opinions and views would widely differ; hoping that, in dealing with the home affairs of the State, we may be able to work together, earnestly and heartily, for the promotion of the general welfare of our people. JOHN T. HOFFMAN.
Also the following:
To the Legislature:
The financial condition of New York city is a matter of great interest to the people of the State at large, and, in some degree, to the commercial world, its stocks and bonds being held for investment at home and abroad. In view of the recent events, I deemed it my duty to procure for you full information as to its liabilities and resources, and addressed a letter to the chairman of the State board of commissioners for revision of the tax laws, the Hon. David A. Wells, who seemed to me specially fitted for the work, requesting him to investigate and report to me. In consequence of delay in his obtaining some of the facts, his report did not reach me until my annual message was in print. My letter to him and his reply are as follows:
MY DEAR SIR.-The financial condition and credit of New York city are of interest as well to the people of the State at large as to its own citizens. It is important that the actual condition of our great metropolis, in reference to its indebtedness and its resources, should be made known with accuracy; and I desire to communicate the facts to the Legislature and the people of the State in my next message. Will you undertake to investigate the matter in my behalf?
Very truly yours,
Hon. DAVID A. WELLS, Chairman, etc.
JOHN T. HOFFMAN.
NEW YORK, December 28, 1871. SIR. In response to your note of November 25th, requesting me to investigate and report to you on the relation which exists between the indebtedness of the city and county of New York and the resources available for the payment of such indebtedness, or the extent of the resources of property which may be fully regarded as constituting an adequate and inalienable security for the ultimate payment in principal and interest of such indebtedness, I have the honor to submit the follow ing exhibit:
By report furnished on request by Hon. A. II. Green, comptroller, it appears that the funded debt-bearing fire, six, and seven per cent interest-of the city and county of New York, was, on the 16th day of December, 1871, $87,371,808.51; and the assets of the sinking fund of the city and county-consisting of stocks and cash-available for the redemption of debt, were, on the same day, $20,137,093.02; thus making the present net funded debt of the city and county of New York, $67,234,715.49.
FLOATING OR TEMPORARY DEBT.
The temporary or floating debt of the city and county of New York— consisting of bonds issued in anticipation of receipts and assessments, arrears of interest, State taxes, unpaid warrants and the like—was, on the 16th day of December, 1871, $28,259,071.35; or, deducting cash on hand-$6,959,919.62 in the city and county treasury-$21,299,152.73.
In addition to the above, the comptroller also reports claims already presented on unsettled accounts, to an estimated aggregate of $6,000,000; which last included would make the total ascertained debt and "claims presented" of the city and county of New York, on the 16th of December, 1871, $94,523,867.22.
So much for the present aspect of the indebtedness of the city and county of New York. In respect to the future, it is to be noted:
First. That much of the existing temporary and floating debt of the city and county of New York, as above indicated-including an aggregate of assessment bonds issued in anticipation of the tax receipts of $14,950,700.00-is redeemable from the collection of assessments, or arrears of taxes, and that a very considerable amount of these assessment and arrears is certain to be collected; and,
Second. That the city holds bonds and mortgages on account of sales of real estate to the amount of $1,132,893.26; the proceeds of which, when collected, are applicable for an increase of the sinking fund held for the redemption of the funded debt.
On the other hand it is known that claims to a very considerable amount for services rendered and materials furnished to the several departments of the city and county government during the year 1871 and previously, are yet to be presented, and that the carrying out of such public works as are already in progress or are certain to be authorized, will also require further additional expenditures.
But in estimating the amount of these prospective requirements for expenditures, it should not be overlooked, that the amount of claims against the city yet to be presented is not likely to be in excess of the arrears of assessments and taxes yet to be collected; and further that the amount to be hereafter expended on account of public improvements cannot, with any regard for economy and moderation, ever prove disproportionate to the concurrent increase in the material resources of the city, arising from its certain and rapid increase in wealth, business and population.
So that making every allowance for contingencies, or any immediate advances on account of public improvements, the total present liabilities of New York city and county may be safely estimated as not in excess of one hundred millions of dollars; and further that the ratio which the