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Chapter XVIII.

Defeat of the Local Option Bill.

Peculiar Arrangement by Which the Bill Was Sidetracked in the Assembly - Stanton Promised That It Should Pass the Lower House If It Passed the Senate - How It Was Smothered in the Upper House.

Because there is no particular reason why California should not have a Local Option law, in the face of popular demand for it, a large number of very worthy citizens assumed that one would be passed. The fact seems to have been lost sight of that the tenderloin element opposes such legislation, and that the management of the so-called liquor interests organized as the "Royal Arch," takes a shortsighted view of Local Option provisions. The machine was thus interested. Its representatives in Senate and Assembly did not propose that any Local Option bill should pass. So the Local Option bill was smothered. The smothering process most suggestively indicates how such things can be done.

The measure was introduced in the Assembly by Wyllie and in the Senate by Estudillo. In the face of the popular demand for the passage of such a bill, and the exasperation of a no small portion of the voters of the State, at the mistake - or trick - by which in 1907 the only measure resembling a Local Option law was rubbed off the statute books, it was not good policy to fight the bill in the open. So the machine proceeded to do covertly what would have been "poor politics" to do openly[81].

The same bill having been introduced both in Senate and Assembly, the first step was to tie up either the Assembly or the Senate measure, so that the whole crafty campaign against the bill's passage could be confined to one House. The way in which this was done was simplicity itself. The Wyllie bill, as introduced in the Assembly was, at the request of Speaker Stanton, held up in the Assembly Committee on Public Morals. Most plausible reason was given for this course. It was pointed out that since the Assembly had gone on record before the Senate on the anti-gambling bill, on women's suffrage[80a] and other "moral" issues, it was unfair to compel the lower House to go on record before the Senate on the Local Option bill. Speaker Stanton assured the proponents of the measure that if it passed the Senate, it should pass the Assembly.

Stanton accordingly recognized that the Assembly, given an opportunity, would pass the bill. Had it passed the Assembly before the middle of February, it would unquestionably have passed the Senate. But the proponents of the measure consented to the plan to make the Senate act first. The fight for the passage of the bill accordingly took place in the Senate.

Before taking up the Senate measure introduced by Estudillo, the Wyllie bill may as well be disposed of. It was introduced in the Assembly January 8th, and was sent to the Committee on Public Morals. There it lay until March 13th, two months and five days, when the proponents of the measure, realizing that they were being tricked, made their protest so loud that the measure was reported by the Committee, but without recommendation. There was no time then to pass the bill, and on March 15th it was withdrawn by its author.

The Estudillo bill, as it was known on the Senate side of the Capitol, had a more eventful history. Introduced in the Senate on January 8th, it had gone to the famous Committee on Election Laws, which had been stacked for the defeat of the Direct Primary bill. Estudillo was, to be sure, Chairman of the Committee, but a lamb herding lions never had a harder job on its hands than did Estudillo. He could not get his committee together to consider the well-backed Direct Primary bill, let alone the worthy but not politically supported local option measure.

Along about the middle of February, however, Estudillo succeeded in getting the committee to act. By a vote of four to four the committee refused to recommend the Local Option bill for passage. Senator Stetson, who favored the passage of the measure, to compel committee action and get the bill before the Senate, thereupon moved that the bill be referred back to the Senate with recommendation that it do not pass. Senator Stetson's motion prevailed.

Thus, the measure went back to the Senate with a majority committee report that it do not pass. But in spite of this adverse report, the Senate passed the measure on second reading and sent it to engrossment and third reading. It looked very much just then as though the bill would pass the Senate.

But the resourceful machine had other plans. When the measure came up for final passage on February 24th, instead of being voted upon, and passed or defeated, it was amended.

To amend a bill on third reading exasperates those who are supporting it as nothing else can. The bill must, when thus amended, be reprinted and re-engrossed before it can be passed. The delays thus caused very often result in the defeat of the measure.

But the reprinted and re-engrossed Local Option bill got back to the Senate on February 26th, and its supporters could think of no other possible excuse for delaying its passage.

But the machine could, and did. On Senator Wolfe's motion - the reader will no doubt remember that Senator Wolfe led the fight against the Direct Primary bill, against the Anti-Gambling bill and against the effective Stetson Railroad Regulation bill - on Senator Wolfe's motion the Local Option bill, instead of being put on its final passage, was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At that time, the closing days of February, the Judiciary Committee was fairly swamped with important measures. The Railroad Regulation bills, the Initiative Amendment, the measures providing for the simplification of methods of criminal procedure and other bills of scarcely less importance were pending before that committee. Prompt action on the Local Option bill was out of the question. And, although a majority of the committee favored the passage of the bill, the minority which was against it took precious good care that no undue haste should attend its consideration. Estudillo was in constant attendance upon the committee, but to little purpose. It was not until March 4th that the committee acted. The action was, of course, recommendation that the bill do pass.

The bill had been amended from time to time, but as it was finally approved by the Judiciary Committee was a reasonably effective measure. It provided that on a petition signed by 25 per cent of the electors of any city, or town, or county, the question of license or no license must be put on the regular election ballot. If a majority of the electors voted against the issuing of liquor licenses in any city or town or township, the governing body could no longer issue saloon licenses. Outside incorporated cities and towns, the basis of prohibition was made the township, although the vote was to be taken throughout the county.

After the measure had been returned from the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, Estudillo fought manfully to have it considered. He finally succeeded, on March 8th, in having the bill made a special order, that is to say, he arranged that the Senate should consider it at 8 o'clock of Thursday, March 11th.

But when Thursday came it developed that Senators Stetson and Boynton could not be present that evening, and they asked Estudillo to have the vote on the measure postponed until noon of the next day, Friday. This Estudillo attempted to do. The thing was done with other bills every day. Had Wolfe made the request, for example, or even Estudillo on any other measure than the Local Option bill, the request would have been granted without thought or comment. But on Wolfe's objection Estudillo's request was denied. The machine saw its opportunity and succeeded in having consideration of the bill postponed until the following Monday, March 15th. This meant the defeat of the bill. Even had it passed the Senate on that date, filibustering tactics would have defeated it in the Assembly.

Nevertheless, the backers of the measure - although pleaded with by weak-kneed Senators to withdraw the bill - insisted upon a vote being taken, when the measure came up on March 15th. This decision compelled Wolfe to make his famous "Fate of the Republican Party" speech, in which he predicted that if the Local Option bill became a law, utter wreck would come upon the Republican party in California. Birdsall, Caminetti, Holohan, Rush, Sanford and Strobridge, whose votes were ordinarily recorded against the machine Senators, voted against the bill, as did Anthony and Curtin. Wright voted for the measure, but otherwise those who had voted against the Walker-Otis Anti-Gambling bill, against a State-wide vote for United States Senators, against the Stetson Railroad Regulation bill, in a word, those whom for the want of a better term we call machine Senators, voted solidly against the Local Option bill[82].

The final showing for the Local Option bill was not a good one, but in spite of it, many in touch with conditions in the Senate held that had the vote been taken in the middle of February instead of the middle of March, the bill would have had a good chance for passage. After the delay of ten weeks from the time of its introduction until the final vote upon it, there was no chance at all for it to become a law.

[81] Up to the legislative session of 1907, the County Government Act provided that the Supervisors of a county could submit any question - including the matter of regulating the liquor traffic - to the voters for the purpose of ascertaining their opinion upon the issue. There was, however, no way to compel the Supervisors to take the action that might be thus decided upon by popular vote. The Supervisors could act upon the vote or ignore it, as they saw fit.

The Legislature of 1907 transferred the County Government Act to the Codes. For some reason, either by intention or oversight, the section which permitted Supervisors to submit questions to the people for an advisory vote was omitted. It has been held that this action of the Legislature repealed the section by implication. It is held, therefore, that no law is upon the Statute books by which the people may be permitted to vote even in an advisory capacity upon any question of police regulation or public policy.

[80a] A fine example of a lightning switch of plan on the part of the machine came in the fight on the Women's Suffrage Amendment. The tenderloin and liquor interests in general are opposed to the submission of this amendment to the people, which means, of course, that the machine is against it. To submit the amendment to the people, fifty-four votes are required in the Assembly and twenty-seven in the Senate. This year, the program was to let the amendment pass the Assembly and defeat it in the Senate. Assemblymen were allowed to pledge themselves to its support until there were fifty-eight Assemblymen down to vote for it. Grove L. Johnson had introduced the measure in the Assembly, and its adoption by that body seemed assured.

But the Anti-Racetrack Gambling bill got in the way of Woman's Suffrage in a most curious manner. When the passage of this anti-gambling bill became a certainty, that branch of the group of tenderloin Senators whose interests were wrapped up in racetrack gambling, became "very sore." In their disgruntlement they decided to give reform full swing, and put the Woman's Suffrage Amendment through the Senate. This attitude seriously alarmed the safe, sane and respectable leaders of the machine, who see all sorts of trouble for the machine if women are given the ballot. So to prevent its tenderloin associates in the Senate doing anything rash, the machine decided rather late in the day to defeat the amendment in the Assembly.

When this decision was reached, and the order to carry it into effect given, the machine Assemblymen who had agreed to vote for the amendment coolly forgot their pledges. Instead of fifty-eight votes, only thirty-nine were cast for the amendment.

Grove L. Johnson, who had introduced it, and who pretended to support it, agreed to move for its reconsideration. When the hour for the motion for reconsideration came, Johnson huddled up in his seat, looking neither to right or left, let the opportunity pass.

The vote by which the amendment was defeated was as follows:

For the amendment: Barndollar, Bohnett, Butler, Callan, Cattell, Coghlan, Cogswell, Collum, Costar, Cronin, Drew, Gibbons, Gillis, Hayes, Hewitt, Hinkle, Holmquist, Hopkins, Johnson of Sacramento, Johnson of San Diego, Johnson of Placer, Juilliard, Kehoe, Maher, Melrose, Mendenhall, Otis, O'Neil, Polsley, Pulcifer, Sackett, Silver, Stuckenbruck, Telfer, Webber, Wheelan, Wilson, Wyllie, Young - 39.

Against the amendment: Baxter, Beardslee, Beatty, Beban, Collier, Cullen, Dean, Feeley, Flavelle, Fleisher, Flint, Gerdes, Greer, Griffiths, Hammon, Hanlon, Hans, Hawk, Johnston of Contra Costa, Leeds, Lightner, Macaulay, McClellan, McManus, Moore, Mott, Nelson, Odom, Preston, Pugh, Rech, Rutherford, Schmitt, Stanton, Transue, Wagner, Whitney - 37.

[82] The vote on the local option bill was as follows:

For the bill - Bell, Black, Boynton, Campbell, Cartwright, Cutten, Estudillo, Miller, Roseberry, Thompson, Walker, Wright - 12.

Against the bill - Anthony, Bills, Birdsall, Burnett, Caminetti, Curtin, Finn, Hare, Hartman, Holohan, Hurd, Kennedy, Leavitt, Lewis, Martinelli, McCartney, Price, Reily, Rush, Sanford, Strobridge, Weed, Welch, Willis, Wolfe - 25.

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