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century of previous legislation for the purpose of determining what the law on a particular situation is. The objection to the present charter, that it consists of layer upon layer of legislation, the meaning of which can only be definitely determined by a judicial interpretation, will be merely emphasized by the adoption of a new charter without specifically repealing the provisions. It will be but another encrustation, not a codification."1
A Consolidation of Local Laws Advocated.
Despite such criticism, the condition of the statutory sources of New York City's government has remained unrectified.2 Explanatory amendments and judicial or administrative rulings have gradually cleared up many questions of consistency and inconsistency which were once doubtful. In recent years the special acts affecting New York City have been listed and, at last, digested. A more ambitious scheme for recodification dwindled to these partial measures.
The larger project was advocated by the Citizens' Union of New York in a petition to the legislature in 1910, which said in part, “In order to discharge the task properly, all these provisions of law should be collated, coordinated and simplified so as to declare plainly, in one homogeneous statute, the law governing the city and all its officers and departments in all their functions, and in their relations to each other and to the public. Necessary changes in the law can then be incorporated in the charter as an integral part of the whole. The magnitude of the task is apparent."1
*Ibid., p. 669.
'It seems to have been the intention of the Commissioners of Statutory Revision to revise the New York City Consolidation Act; it was listed as one of 31 projects in the Report of the Commissioners, etc., April 5, 1900, in N. Y. Ass. Docs., 1900, vol. 4, No. 86, pp. 9-10. The idea was not carried out, however. Report of the Committee to Report to the Legislature concerning the Condition of the Statutes and Laws of this State, January 21, 1903, in N. Y. Ass. Docs., 1903, vol. 1, No. 4. The Board of Statutory Consolidation, created by L. 1904, ch. 664, reported in 1905: Special private and local statutes have been left for later consideration." Report of the Board, etc., in N. Y. Ass. Docs., 1905, vol. 11, No. 55.
Codification by a small, expert staff, they argued, should precede any attempt to alter the substance of the law or the organization of the city government.
The debacle of the “Gaynor Charter" in 1911, reducing finally to futility five years of continuous effort at revision, opened the opportunity for a definite step. A committee of the Citizens' Union, perfecting its recommendation in December, prompted the introduction at the legislative session of 1912 of a bill2 which proposed to appropriate $20,000 to the Board of Statutory Consolidation with which to prepare a consolidation of the laws relating to territory within the City of New York. Successful in the Senate, it reached the order of final passage in the Assembly but was suddenly recommitted and lost. Its purpose was partially rescued by eleventh-hour insertion in the annual supply bill of an item that carried $10,000 for the preparation, under the direction of the Senate committee on affairs of cities, of "a digest of all independent and collateral statutes affecting in any way the City of New York, and each of the municipalities comprised
Searchlight, December 20, 1913, vol. 3, No. 6, p. 3. In quoting their petition of 1910, the editors added: “The confusion of the state of the law relating to the city has increased with every year until revision has become an absolute necessity. The first step in the work should be the consolidation of all the existing laws relating to the City. This is a nec, essary preliminary of charter revision.” The same opinion was expressed by a lawyer with unusual experience in the framing of legislation:
before any thorough revision of our city charter can be adopted the great mass of local legislation inside the charter and outside the charter relating to the city government must be thoroughly studied and consolidated. If this mass of local legislation is not got under control it will torment the proponents of any new charter and in all likelihood defeat their efforts." Thomas I. Parkinson, of the Legislative Drafting Bureau of N. Y. C., in Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, April, 1915, vol. V, No. 3, pp. 230-1.
*S. Pr. No. 1226, S. Int. No. 1031, introduced March 14 by Senator Wagner, Democratic Leader (N. Y. Son. Jour., 1912, p. 598); passed Senate without recorded dissent, líarch 20 (ibid., p. 753); Ass. Rec. No. 245; reported, amended slightly, and made special order, March 23; (Ass. Jour., 1912, p. 1621); recommitted to Committee on Rules by vive voce vote, March 28 (ibid., p. 2035). The Report of the Committee on Legislation of the Citizens' Union for the Session of 1912, p. 5, remarked : “Some who had been engaged in preparing, for large compensation, various political charter revisions, promoted opposition to the bill."
within or consolidated to form said city, not contained in the Greater New York Charter."
Even this restricted provision fell, without explanation, before the Governor's power to veto details in appropriation bills. When finally realized in 1914, by an item in the annual supply act of that year, the plan was similarly curtailed and provided
more than a digest. Subsequent legislation2 nearly doubled the original allowance but did not broaden the purpose.
A Digest Compilation Finally Effected.
The resulting Digest of Special Statutes Relating to the City of New York3 has performed a task akin to compilation for the first time since 1880. It differs in several respects from the col
"L. 1914, ch. 530, under the heading, “ Board of Statutory Consolidation” (p. 2305): For the preparation, under the direction of the Chairmen of the Senate and Assembly committees on affairs of cities, of a digest of all independent and collateral statutes affecting in any way the city of New York and not contained in the Greater New York Charter, $10,000, to be paid upon the certificate of the chairmen of said committees.”
'L. 1915, ch. 726, under heading, “ Board of Statutory Consolidation' (p. 2553), $5,000, for deficiency; L. 1921, ch. 176, Part II of Appropriation Act (p. 680-1), $4,231.17, for deficiency; L. 1922, ch. 397 (Supplemental Supply Act), at p. 833, $5,500 (appropriated in the name of the N. Y. C. Charter Commission for printing, etc., in connection with“ digest of independent and collateral statutes affecting in any way the City of New York”).
* The full title and sub-titles being, Digest of Special Statutes relating to The City of New York and each of the Municipalities comprised within or consolidated to form said City, and not contained in the Greater New York Charter from February 1, 1778, to January 1, 1921-Together with a List of Corporations Incorporated by Special Statutes within the Territory now included in the Territory embraced within Greater New York (October 1, 1922). Although begun and executed under the auspices indi. cated in a preceding note, the final appropriation for printing was authorized in connection with the New York City Charter Commission and the digest describes itself as having been “edited and printed under the supervision of the New York City Charter Commission."
* In 1911 (pursuant to L. 1910, ch. 513, and L. 1911, ch. 192) the Board of Statutory Consolidation prepared The Statutory Record of Unconsolidated Laws, being the Special, Private and Local Statutes of the State of New York, from February 1, 1778, to January 1, 1912, in two volumes. A third volume, Supplement to Statutory Record, etc., issued in 1918 (pursuant to L. 1917, ch. 325, and L. 1918, ch. 424), covered the period 1912-8. Not only was it confined to the citation of chapter and abridged titles, but the arrangement was starkly chronological. Nowhere does it assem
lection known as The Special and Local Laws Affecting Public Interests in the City of New York in force on January 1, 1880.1 (1) Whereas the earlier document was in fact a compilation, reprinting the full text of the acts themselves, although sometimes separating the contents of single measures found to relate to several subjects, the new digest attempts only to set forth in a few lines the essential provisions of each statute that it lists. (2) Whereas the compilation of 1880 assembled the material under a number of broad topics, with secondary attention to the order of enactment, the digest is strictly chronological, and involves the topical arrangement only in the headings of its detailed indices. (3) The digest is broader, however, in that it lists the statutes which have been specifically repealed, as well as those which, whether obsolete or not, have never been specifically repealed. (4) It is broader, furthermore, in that it explores the legislative history of the many local governments which have at some time operated within the area now covered by Greater New York City. The number of communities treated in the section of the digest which is given to unrepealed law runs over thirty. "To locate the settlements, villages and towns that were consolidated to form Greater New York,” say the authors of the digest,2 "it was necessary to consult old maps, charts, gazetteers and histories. If any inaccuracies have crept into this volume they may be attributed to this phase of the work.” (5) It is broader, finally, in the sense
ble citations to all of the statutes which have concerned New York or any other municipality, let alone group these under the various aspects of city business. Charter amendments, in the formal sense, might be traced by examining the lists under each past charter, but the masses of special legislation outside the charter could be located only by combing the entire contents of the Statutory Record. The task is partly performed in the Official Index to the Unconsolidated Laws of the State of New York, 1778-1919 (published, pursuant to L. 1917, ch. 332, as N. Y. Leg. Doc., 1920, No. 127). Nearly one hundred pages are given to New York City legislation, the classification being by subjects and the arrangement alphabetical. But the document is "an index only of original laws. It is not an index of matters added by amendatory acts. The year and chapter of an original law having been discovered by means of the Index, its subsequent history must be traced by the Record.” Furthermore, the legislation affecting municipalities since merged in the metropolis is indexed under many separate headings. Neither the Statutory Record nor the Index has furnished a convenient compilation of the statutory sources of the City's government, even in the terms of mere titles and chapter numbers.
See supra, p. 8; also infra, p. 38.
that it lists, under an alphabetical arrangement and with chapter citations but without digesting, the corporations which have been incorporated by private statutes within the territory now braced in Greater New York.
With revision and consolidation the authors of the digest could have nothing to do. The terms of the legislative authorization under which they worked restrained them from even considering the laws which have comprised the charter in the formal sense. They were not asked to resolve the inconsistencies so often implicit between laws which do not expressly involve each other. One of the most valuable features of the digest is the indication, in connection with the acts not specifically repealed, of the subsequent measures which have "affected” them; but the relationships which are cloaked by the word "affected” and which so often turn on a difficult practical judgment are not stated. It is only here and there that the digest undertakes to describe as temporary and obsolete statutes which have never been expressly repealed. Although valuable as it stands and although a necessary step in any movement for the consolidation and revision of the bodies of law affecting New York City, the digest does no more than to facilitate access to the scattered statutory sources of New York City's government.