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STATE OF NEW YORK:
ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTH SESSION.
BEGUN AND HELD AT THE CAPITOL, IN THE CITY OF ALBANY, ON THE
JOURNAL OF THE SENATE.
STATE OF NEW YORK:
SENATE CHAMBER IN THE CITY OF ALBANY,
Pursuant to the sixth section of the tenth article of the Constitution of the State of New York, designating the first Tuesday in January, in each year, for the time of the meeting of the Legislature, the Hon. David B. Hill, Lieutenant-Governor, and the following Senators, from the several districts of the State, appeared in the Senate, to-wit:
District Number Fifteen District Number Sixteen. District Number Seventeen District Number Eighteen District Number Nineteen District Number Twenty District Number Twenty-one District Number Twenty-two District Number Twenty-three District Number Twenty-four District Number Twenty-five. District Number Twenty-six District Number Twenty seven. District Number Twenty-eight District Number Twenty-nine District Number Thirty. District Number Thirty-one.. District Number Thirty-two.
John Van Schaick.
Timothy E. Ellsworth.
Commodore P. Vedder.
Prayer was offered by Rev. George W. Dean.
The Senators having taken and subscribed the constitutional oath. of office, the President addressed the Senate as follows:
SENATORS The Senate for the years 1884 and 1885 is now organized. In accordance with a custoni long established it is proper at this time that I should offer a few suggestions pertinent to the occasion.
Permit me to observe that it will be my endeavor to impartially execute whatever rules you in your wisdom may see fit to adopt for the government of the deliberations of this body. Upon the majority of this Senate will rest the responsibility for the legislation which it shall enact. "That the party in power is responsible for all legislation while in power," is a cardinal political maxim, the binding force of which I fully recognize, and it will be my duty as your presiding officer to facilitate and not obstruct the expression of the deliberate sense of that majority, while at the same time protecting the rights of the minority within the well-established principles of parliamentary law. In the performance of that always delicate duty I invoke your earnest co-operation and kind indulgence.
It will be among your first duties to elect a President pro tempore to preside during my occasional absence from the Senate, and your pleasure to select for that position some one of your number holding political views in harmony with the sentiments of the majority, and investing him with such further powers and duties as are reasonably warranted by precedents. I am led to believe that you will be so fortunate as to select from your associates the one who from his long experience in the Senate, his mature years, and his arduous services in behalf of the State, would seem to be entitled to this mark of your confidence.
No good reason exists why this session should not be a comparatively brief one. Very little general legislation is required, and the evils of special legislation should be most carefully avoided.
One of the chief subjects of interest, to which legislative attention is demanded, is the odious contract system in our State prisons. It may be safely anticipated, that in pursuance of the expressed will of the people, manifested at the late election, the abolition of that system will speedily follow. It is believed that the obligation of the Legislature to respect and follow the voice of the people upon this question will neither be shirked nor evaded.
It is anticipated that there will be the usual annual clamor for a new charter for the city of New York, while, at the same time, there are scarcely a half dozen prominent men of that city who agree as to what it ought to be. The representatives from the interior of the State are expected, by some, to diligently wrestle with this subject, to the exclusion of matter in which their immediate constituents are more specially interested, and with the remarkable aid of the conflicting views of the press, the officials, the tax payers and the politicians of that city, frame an instrument that will, of itself, remedy all evils incident to municipal government, forever abolish corruption, and inaugurate a political millennium. This Legislature may be equal to a task like this; but it is one in which all its predecessors have signally failed. It is submitted that constant changes in the charter of a city are unwise, and that it is better policy in the long run to permit New
York city or any other city to be governed at home rather than from Albany.
The attention of the people's representatives should be turned to the practical question of taxation and retrenchment, and to the promotion of the industrial interests of the State, rather than absorbed in efforts to effect changes of doubtful propriety in existing laws, or to secure sumptuary legislation, or to add unwise and illiberal provisions to the Constitution itself.
It is to be hoped that no encouragement will be extended to the growing practice of the appointment of special or unnecessary and extravagant investigating committees, having for their real but disguised object, the accomplishments of partisan or factional ends, and which in no respect tend to the benefit of the State. They may secure temporary political advantage to the party that seek to use them and may be made the means for the punishment or annoyance of political enemies, but in the end their motives and objects are exposed, their alleged disclosures are of no significance, and they always recoil upou their author. For fear of being charged with an attempt to stifle proper investigation and lest their motives may be misconstrued, few legislators, no matter how honest or fair in their intentions, are willing to oppose such committees, but they are usually tolerated or authorized against the better judgment of the best men of all parties. This suggestion should not, itself, be misunderstood. It is eminently proper to investigate, no matter at what expense or annoyance, whatever may throw light upon the propriety of any proposed legislation, but it is also equally desirable that all other inquiries for other objects should be conducted by means of the courts, the grand juries or the local tribunals or officials of the county or municipality affected, whose duty it is by law to make them, and that such localities should bear the burden and expense of such investigations. Home rule should always be accompanied by home responsibility.
Upon the standing committees of the two houses must be the main reliance of the Legislature for its valuable and efficient work. In committee of the whole or in the open Senate is no place in which to carefully perfect an important bill. To a great extent, more so than is ordinarily conceded, do the various committees arrange, shape and control all legislation. They can retard a good measure or advance a bad one. They can give patient hearings to professional lobbyists and those representing special and peculiar corporate interests, and they can, with undue and discourteous haste, dismiss and reject the suggestions of those who oppose their designs. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that in the construction of such committees they should be formed in the interest of the people rather than to foster and protect monopolies; that their sympathies and interests should. be on the side of honest legislation; that they should have no schemes to advocate inconsistent with their duty to the Commonwealth, but that they should be so constituted that they can bring to the discharge of their duties an enlightened and unbiased judgment, and an independent, conscientious and fearless performance of the obligations they owe the State.
The Legislature of last year was exceptionally free from the influence of professional lobbyists. By the united efforts of the presiding officer of each house, coupled with the loyal support of the two houses respectively, this class of persons were effectually driven from the