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The President put the question on the request of Mr. Kinkel, and the request was granted.
Mr. J. I. Green - Mr. President, I rise for information. I would like to know how many members are excused from attendance to-morrow and also on Monday?
The President Forty-four have been excused from attendance to-morrow, and thirty-five for Monday. The Convention will now proceed with the call of general orders.
The Secretary called general order No. 8, introduced by Mr. Lauterbach.
General order No. 8 was not moved.
The Secretary called general order No. 19 (printed No. 386), introduced by Mr. Roche, to amend section 18 of article 3 of the Constitution, relating to special or local laws.
General order No. 19 was not moved.
The Secretary called general order No. 20 (printed No. 308), introduced by Mr. McKinstry, to amend article 3, in regard to taking saloons out of politics.
Mr. McKinstry- Mr. President, it is so late that I dislike to move that, although I am ready, and I would like to have it made a special order for to-morrow morning.
Mr. Tekulsky Oh, no; let us dispose of it now.
Mr. McKinstry - Very well; I will move it now.
The President Mr. Hawley will take the chair.
The Convention then went into Committee of the Whole on general order No. 20, Mr. Hawley in the chair.
The Chairman-The Convention is in Committee of the Whole on general order No. 20.
Mr. McKinstry- Mr. Chairman, for the purpose of debate I will move to strike out the enacting clause. The committee has changed this amendment somewhat from the form in which I drew it by inserting a proposed uniform tax, but I do not know that I object to it particularly on that ground. I can explain the amendment to the Convention in a few minutes. The objects of this proposed constitutional amendment are three-fold: First, to do away with the disgraceful condition of the State recognizing a business as an evil, and then allowing it to continue by payment of a certain fee, expressly providing that the consent is given in consideration of that fee. The second object is, a measure of justice to the liquor dealers. If their businss is right and proper, why
should it not be treated like the business of other citizens? When a community votes that it is desirable to have liquor sold in its midst, wherein is the consistency of saying that one man may sell, and another may not, and leave to some political board the decision as to who may sell and who may not? A special tax is not a license, nor a condemnation of the business. There are already special taxes in this State; for instance, the tax upon the organization of corporations, the tax upon their profits, the tax upon inheritances, collateral and direct. All these special taxes are imposed with a view to aiding the general taxpayers of the State, but never on the ground of permitting an evil. The third object is to do away with one of the greatest sources of corruption in our politics, a corruption that must, by the very constitution of human nature, become more and more dangerous and oppressive. Pause and consider the enormous power of excise boards in this State. There is no other body in all the State endowed with such stupendous, arbitrary power, limited solely by their own discretion or caprice. There was a law allowing appeals from their decisions to the Supreme Court, but that court by no less than half a dozen decisions, on appeals brought in different parts of the State, decided only last year that the duty of reviewing the action of excise boards, in matters left to the discretion of such boards, could not be imposed upon judges, according to the Constitution, and the decisions of those judges being uniform in conclusion and unanimous throughout the State, there is no question but that they are correct. Hence the excise board of every town and city remains absolutely supreme and final in its power, having in its control franchises which in the larger cities may be worth millions of dollars in the aggregate, and the men who seek the favors of such boards must be prepared to submit to any exactions the board may desire to impose. I claim that it is un-American to give any body of men such power over the means of livelihood of a large number of citizens.
"All that a man hath will he give for his life," and the name is true of his means of life. I claim that human nature should never be put to the test of exercising such power under a government alleged to have regard for the rights of the individual. The revelations of investigations in our large cities, the struggles of political parties and factions to get control of excise boards, and the efforts of individuals to be elected to the office of excise commissioner all point to one fact, that human nature is not equal to such a test of unrestrained power. To put it plainly, the man who has the "pull gets the license, and he can only keep it by surrendering his political rights and submitting to whatever political and personal exactions
the party in power may demand. No party, either Republican or Democratic, should ever be vested with such power. The next step from political exactions is personal exactions, and I am told. that even in small towns, when the excise commissioner comes into a place which does business by his permission, the cigar case is open to him, and whatever he chooses to order is "hung up," to be paid for at his august convenience. The whole of code license is intrinsically wrong. I have heard this argument from hundreds of pulpits, and I have never heard it answered. If liquor selling is morally wrong, no payment of a license or indulgence fee can make it right. If it is right, all men have an equal right to engage in it upon equal conditions. Thousands of conscientious, Christian voters have joined the Prohibition party upon this statement of the case, because they could not justify the license system, or uphold any party that favored either high or low license. Of the two, high license is far the more obnoxious to them. On the other hand, thousands of other voters have been controlled in the interest of political parties by such parties having the control of excise boards in large cities, giving them power, not only to demand the utmost political efforts of certain dealers, but also to raise vast sums of money for political purposes. This condition is liable to be true of one party in one city and of another party in another city, or of different parties in the same city at different times. Therefore, I do not propose this measure as a partisan scheme, but simply for the advancement of public morality and purer politics. While the tax authorized by this amendment would, no doubt, be higher than the present license fees in most places, I believe most liquor dealers would prefer to pay it and be relieved of all other assessments. It is simply a question of turning their present contributions to political committees and political strikers into the public treasury.
Regulation of the traffic as to hours of sale, general conduct of the business, also its location, with reference to school-houses and churches and residence blocks, would be as feasible as now. The laws would be general and bear upon all alike.
Mr. Chairman, I should not have the assurance to propose so radical a revolution as I have indicated, upon mere theory. It was suggested to me by interviews with citizens of another State. Those citizens of Ohio, strong temperance men, have praised their system to me in earnest terms, and yet I understand that the liquor dealers of that State are now satisfied with it for the reasons I have mentioned.
I will present a little testimony from Ohio. I read extracts from correspondence of the New York Evening Post. "It is almost needless to say that this measure (the Dow law) was fought in the courts with great bitterness. The saloon-keepers of the State were solidly organized, contributions were made by all for a litigation fund, and every phase of the law was tested in the Supreme Court. That body had a Republican majority, however, which steadfastly upheld the view championed by the party that a tax law was not a license within the meaning of the Constitution. Within a year and a half the agitation died down, and then the Legislature amended the Dow law by making the tax uniform and fixing the amount at $250 a year. It also changed the manner of distributing the tax so that two-tenths of it now go to the general revenue fund of the State, three-tenths to the municipal police fund, three-tenths to the general fund of the city, and the remaining two-tenths to the poor fund of the county. The aim of the divisions is, as far as possible. to apply this tax toward paying the expenses which the liquor business entails upon the community and commonwealth. The public generally very strongly approve the plan, and no law now on the statute books has a firmer hold upon public favor than this tax law. No general assembly would dare repeal it."
Besides the amendment of the Dow law, the General Assembly, on March 3, 1888, enacted a local-option measure by which townships and villages, outside of any municipal corporation, can prohibit, by popular vote, the sale of liquor within their limits. One-fourth of the electors must petition the trustees of the township or council of the village for the privilege of a ballot on the local prohibition of the traffic, and in the event of a majority of the electors voting for such prohibition proper record is made which is prima facie evidence that the sale of liquors in the township or village is unlawful. A ratable proportion of the Dow tax is returned to a saloon-keeper whose place is closed by local option. The penalties for violating local-option ordinances range from $50 to $500 fine, and imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed six months. The councils of the smaller cities also have power to pass a local-option ordinance and close all saloons. In several cities, such as Alliance and Painesville, this has been done, though the results have not been satisfactory in either case named. Township prohibition through local option has resulted in giving the State several hundred "dry" townships, and has, undoubtedly, reduced the amount of liquor consumed and been a benefit to the localities in question. The constitutional barrier has prevented an account being taken of the character of the liquor dealer. Any man can sell liquor in
Ohio who can pay the tax, or can induce some brewer or distiller to make him his agent and to pay the tax for him. Notwithstanding the failure of the law to require good character in the dealer, it cannot be doubted that the general result of the tax has been to improve somewhat the character of the men in the business. It has not closed all the groggeries of the slums, but it has driven out a few of them. The smaller number of saloons has lessened the temptation to drink, and proved of practical value from a strict temperance standpoint. This is the general opinion of the public. It goes far towards proving the "character" clause of license laws in other States of no great value.
One great advantage of the Ohio tax system over the license laws of other States is that all excise boards are abolished. In the forty years the present Constitution has been in operation, Ohio has not known what a licensing board was, with its train of political effects. All the tax enactments, the Pond, Scott and Dow laws, contemplated the same simple but effective arrangement of putting the fee upon the basis of all other taxation. Or, rather, it is freer from all suspicion of political influence than the other subjects from which revenue is raised, because there is not even a board of equalization to be influenced or a change of valuation to be striven for. The assessor returns the number of saloons and their proprietors, as he does the number of horses or any other item of taxation. The auditor is under heavy bonds to report these to the treasurer in the same manner as property, and the liquor dealer has no appeal or alternative but to step up and pay the fee regularly every six months. Any man who can pay the tax can sell liquor, but there is very little chance for liquor dealers to escape the tax, except, possibly, a few drug stores, and those even for no great length of time. The granting of licenses cannot possibly be the source of any political influence, for the good reason that the receipt for the tax, without which liquor cannot be sold, is, in the usual sense of the word, not a license. There is, accordingly, nothing in the law which permits a groggery to be closed, providing its proprietor has paid the tax. But, if he sells to minors, to intoxicated persons, or opens on Sunday, he can be heavily fined, and for the latter offense. imprisoned also."
This is the editorial comment of the "Post" of June 3, 1893: "For some time past we have been impressed by the conviction that Ohio was having less trouble with the liquor problem than any other large State, and that its experience must be worthy of more general attention from the country than it has hitherto received. We have, therefore, secured from an intelligent correspondent in