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INSPECTORS OF MINES.
Department of Internal Affairs,
Harrisburg, April 15, 1896. To His Excellency, Daniel II. Flastings, Governor of Pennsylvania:
Sir: In compliance with the requirements of the Act of June 30, 1885, relative to the Mine Inspectors' Reports of the Anthracite and Bituminous coal regions, and of the Act of April 23, 1889, and of June 2, 1891, I have the honor to present to you for transmission to the General Assembly the reports of the Inspectors of this Commonwealth for the year 1895.
JAMES W. LATTA, Secretary of Internal Affairs.
Suggestions Relative to Needed Legislation. In submitting the report of the mine Inspectors for the year end ing December 31, 1895, it seems proper to call the attention of the Legislature to some of the defects that exist in the present mine laws of the Commonwealth, at least so far as they relate to the Department of Internal Affairs. The acts of 1891 which regulate the mining of coal in Pennsylvania, provide for the appointment of mine Inspectors in both the anthracite and bituminous regions, and prescribe their duties. Among other things they are required to make annual reports to the Secretary of Internal Affairs to be published by him as soon after their receipt as may be convenient. By virtue of existing laws there are eight mine Inspectors in the anthracite region and ten in the bituminous region.
So far as is provided by law these mining districts are independent departments connected with the Department of Internal Affairs and the Inspectors are not accountable to any one in particular for their acts to the extent they should be. To state the case in another form, there is no State official who has general supervision over them or who can give directions as to how they shall discharge the numerous duties imposed upon them by law. It is true the Secretary of Internal Affairs is to receive and become the custodian of their annual reports, but he is without power to prescribe how the reports shall be made or the form that shall be used in collecting and compiling the information which it was the intention of the Legislature should be annually gathered and published. While the mine Inspectors, as a rule, acknowledge that they must be responsible to some State official, and very generally comply with the suggestions made by the Secretary of Internal Affairs, as to the making of reports and the discharge of their duties, it is entirely due to their sense of propriety. There is an entire absence of law that would enable the Secretary to require any general or specific action on the part of the Inspectors, and it therefore seems highly proper, and indeed necessary that the Legislature should either clothe the Secretary with additional powers relative to the mine Inspectors and the execution of the laws now in force, or provide another State official who shall have such powers and authority. During the session of the Legis lature of 1895, several suggestions were made in regard to perfecting the mining laws in the direction indicated, and some of them were embodied in a bill providing for the establishment of a separate de partment to be known as the Mining Department, but this bill failed to become a law. It is probable, however, that a similar measure will be presented at the next session of the Legislature. If a careful study is made of the article of the Constitution that authorized the establishment of the Department of Internal Affairs, and of the laws passed immediately after the adoption of the Constitution, it will be apparent that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution, and especially of the Legislature of 1874, which put in force the provisions of the Constitution, that this Department should embrace many subjects of governmental control that have since been made separate departments. To state one case, the Bureau of Industrial Statistics of the Department of Internal Affairs was given authority to make thorough investigations annually of the condition of the . laboring classes of the Commonwealth, with a view of advancing their interests, and to make such suggestions as might contribute to their benefit. Recently a law was passed to establish a Factory Inspector's Department, which has to a very large extent the same duties imposed upon it. Other cases might be cited to show clearly that there has been a departure from the original idea that seemed to control the consiitutional convention when it established the Department of Internal Affairs. It seems to have been the desire that this Department should be considered in a similar light to the Department of the Interior of the National government, and that whatever governmental control might be found necessary in the development of the internal interests of the State should be provided for in this department and under the general supervision of the Secretary. If this were the intentions of the convention, it seems entirely proper that whatever duties are prescribed with reference to the mining interests of the Commonwealth, should be imposed upon the Secretary of Internal Affairs. Certain it is that the expenses of such supervision would be much less to the Commonwealth than if a separate department were to be established, and it is probable that equally good results could be obtained by the establishment of a Mining Bureau in this Department under the direction of the Sec retary, with a chief at the head of the same possessing the qualitications necessary to enable him to take supervision of the mine Inspectors and see that the mining laws were properly and faithfully executed. It is possible that this idea might not be so popolar among those who would like to have charge of a mining department and the places therein, but it seems to have been the original idea that controled the constitutional convention at the time of the establishment of the Department of Internal Affairs, and looking at the matter from an economical standpoint, as well as from a desire