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torate and a constitutional limit of the amount of such issues
315. County Government.
That there should be changes made in the present system of county government appears to be the nearly universal belief. Many favor putting an end to legislative control over county affairs by means of special laws and the limitation of legislative enactment to statutes either of universal application for county government or else applying to classes of counties determined by the constitution. Others would accord to counties the power to legislate in their own behalf on such purely local mat. ters as stock, fence and road laws. A few people mention the advisability of reducing the number of officers and courts in the smaller counties."
No one denies that the county court as at present constituted is too unwieldly for an administrative agency, but there is disagreement as to whether it should be reduced by means of decreasing the number of civil districts in the county,8 by creating a small executive board to act under supervision of the court, or whether it should be superseded by straight-out commission government. “Abolish the County Court,” says one correspondent, and in its stead, elect three to five commissioners, (according to size of County) to conduct the finances of the County ; no man to be qualified to run for the office of County Commissioner until he has first passed a Civil Service examination to be held by a State Board of Examiners, (appointed by the Governor); examinations to be held by said Board once each year in the County seat. Those only, who successfully pass such examination to be eligible to run for the office.
"See especially VI, 13, 15; VII, 1.
The court is composed of district representatives, usually upwards of 20. In practice its work is done by committees, similar to legislative committees.
Shelby Co. (Private Acts of 1911. ch. 237) has a board of county commissioners, with specified powers, in addition to its county court.
Among other suggestions, are longer terms of office and increased supervision over local affairs, especially the local perforinance of such state functions as law enforcement, by the state administrative officials.
Probably no change is more widely insisted upon than the 316. abolition of the fee system of remunerating county officials. Instances are on record of fees to a single official running above $50,000 a year. The county court clerk of one of the larger counties is reported to have testified before a recent state committee that he was well satisfied with his job and to have intimated that if the state would only let the fee system alone while his term should continue, he would be financially well-fixed for life. Estimates of the amount of fees made by private in- . dividuals have frequently been criticised as excessive by incumbents in office, but the latter have shown little disposition to disclose the extent of the excess. Indeed, the feeling seems to be widespread among local office-holders that it is none of the public's business to know how public offices are run, but that election to office gives the successful candidates a sort of privi. lege to live on the public and take all they can get during their terms. The fee problem thus becomes one of great importance from the point of view of administration. Opinion is divided between allowing all officers a specified salary on the one hand, and on the other hand permitting them to receive their present fees, but requiring them to pay into the public treasury all over a certain amount. Says a recent editorial,
If a constitutional convention should accomplish nothing more than a reformation of the fee system it would amply justify itself.'
Discontent with the present administration of justice seems 317. to be shared by nearly everyone who has considered the matter. tion of It extends from the jury system especially the requirement that jurymen cannot be drawn from an outside county, 5—to the highest court of the state. One correspondent says,
2 After nearly a year spent in investigation of the fee system, the tax commission of the Tennessee Manufacturers' Association so reported in 1914. See, e. g., Journal and Tribune, Sept. 20.
Proceedings of the Public Meetings of the Committee to Investigate Assessment and Taxation (1915), p. 129.
*Knoxville Sentinel, Feb. 22, 1916.
The difficulty results from the rule that jurymen are disqualified if they have read a newspaper account of the crime. See Acts of 1899, ch. 383.
our whole judicial structure should be unified and simplified. our law courts and equity courts should be combined, and the whole system should be under the control of the Supreme Court.
Opinion is divided as to whether the constitution should contain the requirement that the supreme court must meet at three different places. Several interesting suggestions are offered in the following extract from a very thoughtful letter,
Provide for the Supreme Court to meet in Nashville only, increase the number of the Supreme Court judges to nine, three from each grand division of the state and so regulate the time of their election, as not to have them all go out of office at one time. Prohibit the creation of an intermediate Appellate Court, but permit the Supreme Court to sit in sections, the chief justice and four to hear cases while the other four are writing opinions, and thus alternate so that a part can be hearing cases while the other part are writing opinions.
Among the miscellaneous suggestions for improving the administration of justice were (1) that the justices of the peace should no longer be constitutional officers and that they should be deprived of their criminal jurisdiction in cities ;? (2) that, in order to reduce criminal costs prosecution for minor offences should be allowed upon information to the attorney general;$ (3) that accused persons may be allowed to plead guilty on apprehension ;' (4) that the constitution shall require the enactment of a code of civil pleading and practice and a compilation of the statute law of the state; (5) the establishment of the office of public defender; (6) the creation of a board of pardons and (7) provision for a simpler method than impeachment for removing high officials—for instance by proceedings before the supreme court.
The demand for changes in the constitutional clauses providing for and regulating the legislative and the administrative functions of the state, though apparently less widespread than reform of the judiciary is nevertheless vigorous. It includes
318. Legislation and Admin istration.
«VI, 2. Knoxville, Nashville, Jackson. See Acts of 1915, ch. 95.
There has been much blackmail carried on in the offices of city justices of the peace. Ignorant persons are arrested on charges, sometimes true and sometimes false, and the offer is made that if they will pay a few dollars the matter will be dropped.
*Presentment, indictment or impeachment is now required-I, 14.
This would enable them to begin serving their terms in the work house at once; would save costs.
such forward looking measures as proportional representation, “a provision making the Governor and heads of the various departments members of the Legislative body," and a single chambered general assembly. A committee of the Bar Association of Tennessee reported to its 1915 meeting that the bicameral legislature composed of both senate and house
belongs to that period when an aristocracy sought by means of the second house to perpetuate its privilege, and, therefore, has no place in a democracy like ours.
The report proposed
a legislature consisting of a single house of thirty-three members; three members from each congressional district and one from each grand division of the state to be elected for four years, and paid a good salary. The legislature to meet annually in January, when for a week or ten days all bills should be introduced and printed. Then an adjournment for ninety days so that the people could know what legislation was in contemplation. On re-convening either pass or reject the measures. No others to be introduced or considered. No local legislation; ... [legislation for individual counties] to be relegated exclusively to the commissioners of the respective counties.
Any member of the legislature should be subject to recall on petition of a majority of the voters of his district.
Among other suggestions are (1) some provision to enforce the clause intended to prevent acts from becoming effective sooner than forty days after passage and (2) a provision rendering members of the legislature ineligible to offices created by acts passed during their incumbency.3
The prohibition of special legislation with the consequent enormous saving of the time and energy of the general assembly is the most widely advocated of legislative reforms. The necessity of fewer restrictions upon the power of the legislature is occasionally recognized and a very considerable sentiment seems to exist in favor of the initiative, referendum and recall. Apparently a constitutional prohibition of acceptance of railroad passes by legislators and other public officials would receive wide approval.
News dispatch to Journal and Tribune, June 25, 1915. Proceedings of Bar Association, pp. 51ff (56, 58).
8See II, 10. Many offices appointive by others than the governor and legislature are said to be created every session for the benefit of particular legislators.
319. Increase of Governor's Power.
The elementary administrative reform—the short ballot, or fewer elective officers—seems to have few advocates in Tennes see. Quite as many citizens, probably, would increase the length of the ballot,—especially the state ballot, by including the comptroller, treasurer and secretary of state. More thought seems to have been given to increasing the length of the terms of administrative officers and rendering them ineligible to reëlection. Greater control by the governor of the law-enforcing agencies of the state—including ability to call out the militia without legislative authorization is apparently advocated by a great many citizens. The feeling seems to be fairly general that the governor should be given more power. The creation of the office of lieutenant-governor is deemed desirable in some quarters.
Competitive civil service examinations are, as has been intimated, advocated very earnestly by a few citizens. One writer would prescribe
a thorough Educational and Moral test for all candidates for public offices in state and county, with the view to the elimination of the morally and intellectually unfit.
320. New State Functions.
Several recommendations contemplate an increase in the functions of the state government for instance, (1) the regulation of all public service corporations through a constitutional state commission; (2) road building by the state, and (3) the creation of
a fire insurance department for the State so that the State may insure property both real and personal, making the amount of insurance carried the basis of assessment upon the property insured. All employees in the insurance department to be under Civil Service, and be required to pass a rigid examination both as to mental and moral qualifications.
Two writers advocate conservation measures. One of them specifies that the constitution should expressly authorize the organization of “power, forestation and conservation districts, with power of local taxation for such purposes.”
Amongst the miscellaneous reforms advocated by a considereous Recom- able number of citizens, greater home rule for cities and the
*See III, 5.
The proponent adds "This will do more to bring personal property into assessment than any other one thing."
"Classification of cities with prohibition of legislative enactment save applicable to a class was also proposed.