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COMMITTEES AND COMMISSIONS
CHAPTER I. Committees
CHAPTER II. The Committee of the Whole
CHAPTER III. The Quasi-Committee
CHAPTER IV. Commissions
A Committee is usually a small number to whom is referred or committed the consideration of some matter by the main body, that it may be carefully studied and later be reported upon to the full body.
Much of the work in deliberative bodies is done by Committees. Sometimes the work is preliminary to the introduction of a measure in the house and sometimes it is intermediate, as when a matter presented to a body is referred to a committee before final action. The principle is that of division of labor. It is a saving of time, as the committee meets usually when the main body is not in session, and allows a freedom of procedure which could not be tolerated in the main body, and also a fullness of investigation that would scarcely be proper in the presence of the public.
Speaker Reed has said: "The committee is the eye, and ear, and hand, and very often the brain of the Assembly. Freed from the very inconvenience of numbers, it can study a question, obtain full information, and put the proposed action into proper shape for final decision. The appointment of a committee also insures to the assembly the presence during the debate of members who have made some examination of the question" (Reed's Rules, p. 53).
There are two classes of committees: Standing Committees and Special or, as they are sometimes called, Select Committees.
Standing Committees are usually ordered by the laws of the body and are to consider questions with which the body must deal at every session, and they continue until
the end of the session or term, and hence their nameStanding Committees.
Special or Select Committees are for the purpose of considering special matters that may be presented, and are not covered by the Standing Committees. They are created when the occasion arises and continue according to circumstances.
The composition of a committee may be determined by the permanent law of the body, or by the immediate direction of the body itself where there is no law to the contrary. Usually, the law of the body regulates the appointment or election of Standing Committees.
The first thing is to determine whether the house desires to have the committee, the second thing is to decide how many will be on the committee, and the third how the members of the committee shall be secured.
Thus, in regard to Special or Select Committees, the first thing necessary is the motion and vote ordering the committee. When this is done the presiding officer will ask, "Of how many shall the committee consist?"
If several numbers are named, the vote will be first on the highest, and so on to the smallest, or until a number is found which is satisfactory to the majority.
If there is not a standing rule giving the presiding officer the power of naming the members of committees, unless otherwise ordered in a particular case, the Chair will say, "How will you obtain your committee?" Someone may move that the Chair appoint. If such a motion is not made and carried the presiding officer calls upon the assembly to nominate, and he puts to vote the first name he hears, and so on singly, the meeting approving or rejecting by a vote taken in the usual manner, until the requisite number is obtained. Sometimes the number,
and even the names, are included in the original motion for the committee, but the wholesale nomination of a committee is not usually for the best interests of the whole body and it is not good taste, nor good law, for one individual member to monopolize the right that belongs to
the whole house by nominating all the members of a committee. Each member is entitled to make a single nomination, and then it would be good taste for him to permit the other members to freely do the rest of the nominating. The wholesale nomination by a single member may be taking the practical control of the body and predetermining the result. It is true that the house could reject the nominations, but in ordinary bodies members would not like to assert themselves in a way that might be construed as a reflection upon the indicated individuals, and it is not well to put them into such a quandary.
Frequently the law specifically provides that the presiding officer shall appoint the members of all committees. Sometimes it calls for a committee to nominate for and arrange the committees. In other instances the law provides that the committees shall be filled automatically or by the delegates from given sections. Where there are no such provisions in the constitution, the by-laws, or the standing rules, the whole matter is within the control of the body itself, and it may leave the nomination or appointment to the Chair, or the nominations may come from the members on the floor.
It is customary, as a matter of course, to put upon the committee the mover and seconder of the motion for the creation of the committee, and to name the mover first.
When the committee is for action it should be small and be composed of those who are favorable to the proposed action; when for deliberation, the committee should represent all sides of the question. This, however, is at the discretion of the body. Jefferson was of the opinion that "None who speak directly against a measure are to be of the committee," for "The child is not to be put to a nurse who cares not for it."
The assembly may or may not excuse one who has been selected from serving on the committee.
The presiding officer in a committee is called the chair