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FROM an examination of the journals of the two houses it appears that 28,134 bills and joint resolutions have been introduced into the General Assembly of Iowa since the organization of the State in 1846; and the same records show that during this period, which covers sixty-eight years, 7738 bills and joint resolutions were enacted into law and placed upon the statute books of the Commonwealth. During the session of 1913 the Thirty-fifth General Assembly alone entertained the introduction of 1297 bills and joint resolutions, while it enacted 410 into laws and permitted 887 to fall by the wayside. In other words, it appears that in Iowa there are about one-third as many enactments as there are bills and joint resolutions introduced: two-thirds of all measures proposed fail to reach the statute books.
The task of wisely sifting and perfecting the measures presented to the General Assembly requires a degree of skill and intelligence that is not exceeded in any other department of the government. Indeed, it is conceded that the law-making or policy-determining function requires for its proper exercise a knowledge so varied and extensive that satisfactory
legislation would seem impossible unless performed by “minds trained to the task through long and laborious study."* And yet the official register of this State shows that comparatively few members of the legislature have had training “through long and laborious study”, or the advantage of years of experience in the business of making laws. Furthermore, the General Assembly of Iowa meets but once in two years for a session of about ninety or one hundred days; and there is nothing in the law or in the salaries provided which suggests that our legislators are expected to devote much time to the study of the problems of legislation when the legislature is not in session. Evidently under existing conditions there is no department of government which is in greater need of expert assistance than the legislature when it undertakes to make laws — or the voters when, operating under the initiative and referendum, they assume the function of legislating.
There is much criticism of both the volume and the quality of State legislation. But a constructive view of the situation suggests the very practical question, how can legislators be aided in their work and equipped for the difficult task of making laws for the Commonwealth? Or, how may the people, acting under the forms of direct legislation, be guided in initiating and voting upon public measures ? Upon the possibility of a satisfactory answer to this question depends the improvement of legislation by representative assemblies and still more the success of direct legislation by the people.
*See John Stuart Mill's Representative Government, the chapter on Representative Bodies.
Under existing conditions legislators and voters alike may be aided and guided in the making of laws in three ways: (1) through legislative reference work; (2) through scientific research; and (3) through expert bill-drafting. The consistent use of these agencies by those engaged in the business of making laws would constitute a distinctive method of legislation which may properly be characterized as Scientific Law-making.
LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE In the first place scientific law-making demands the discovery and collection of data and information relative to the subjects of contemporary legislation. The materials to be collected include statute laws, codes, proposed bills, and judicial decisions; reports of public officials, boards, commissions, and committees; reports of special investigations and surveys; books, pamphlets, periodicals, and bulletins containing both popular and scientific discussions of public questions; reference lists and bibliographies; miscellaneous leaflets and clippings. In the hands of competent library assistants these materials are classified, arranged, catalogued, and indexed; special reference lists and bibliographies are sometimes compiled; and finally briefs may be made on some of the more difficult subjects.
It is clear that the collection, classification, cataloguing, indexing, listing, and briefing of materials is largely a library function which can best be performed by trained reference librarians in connection with a State Library or possibly a State University Library. As a rule the State Library is found to be the logical agency for handling this important work
– which should be carried on through a department, bureau, or division specially organized and equipped for the purpose. Thus back of legislative reference work are usually the vast resources and equipment of a State Library.
In Iowa legislative reference work was first officially recognized in 1907 by the Thirty-second General Assembly when $150 was appropriated for the purchase of legislative references to and indexes of current legislation” and $1000 annually was allowed the State Librarian's office for “one legislative and general reference assistant.” With this encouragement the work has been carried on at the State House in the rooms of the Law Department of the State Library under the direction and supervision of Mr.