Note: The Mason's Manual Commission, the authors of the revised versions of the parliamentary manual designed for state legislatures, Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, have recently had fun conducting college bowl style quizzes for state legislative parliamentarians on some of the more arcane but interesting provisions of the manual. The Thicket asked the Commission and its chair, Alfred Speer, clerk of the Louisiana House of Representatives, to pick out a few of the more intriguing questions to test our readers.
By the Mason's Manual Commission
The first question in our Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure quiz is a free one—we'll give you the answer without having to skip to the bottom of the page.
Why is it called Mason's Manual?
Paul Mason was assistant secretary and parliamentarian of the California Senate in the 1930s, serving under the legendary Joe Beek, secretary of the Senate for 47 years and founder of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. Mason wrote Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure in 1935 and published numerous subsequent revised editions. Just before his death in 1985, Mason assigned the copyright for the manual, now used in 74 of the 99 legislative chambers, to NCSL. NCSL published revised editions in 1989, 2000 and 2010 under the direction of the Mason's Manual Commission.
Score yourself on the remaining nine questions in this quiz.
- True or false: A majority of a body has the power to establish a rule that cannot be modified or repealed by a majority vote of the body.
- True or false: A motion to suspend the rules may be made only at a time when no question is pending.
- True or false: The vote sustaining the ruling of the presiding officer may be reconsidered.
- Yes or no: Is it necessary for a substitute bill to be read a first and second time before consideration on third reading and final passage?
- Yes or no: Do members have to vote to be part of a quorum?
- True or false: The authority of a house to pass upon a member's qualifications and election may be exercised throughout a term.
- True or False: A witness' speech to a legislative committee is privileged, insulating the witness from legal action.
- True or false: A presiding officer can refuse to sign legislation that has been duly passed and thereby kill the legislation.
- True or False: A motion or amendment to strike the enacting clause from a bill is of the same character as all other amendments to a bill.
Find the answers to the questions below the jump.
- False. Section13-2 of the Manual is based upon the axiom that each body of each state's legislature has the sole authority to establish its rules of procedure. To allow a previously elected legislature to bind the procedural decisions of later legislature would violate that axiom.
- False. Section 282-1 of the Manual instructs that motions to suspend the rules may be made during the pendency of a question as long as the suspension relates to the pending question. Otherwise, motions to suspend rules applicable to the general procedures or affecting the procedures for the remainder of the legislative day need be made only when no question is pending before the body.
- True. Section 235 of the Manual provides that an appeal may be reconsidered until the subject matter of the appeal has been disposed of and it has become impossible for the house to reverse its actions.
- No. Section 415-2 & 617 clearly states that a substitute bill is nothing more than an amendment. This concept is important in states that require bills to be read three separate times on three separate days. Being merely amendments, substitute bills do not require three separate readings after their introduction.
- No. Section 503-1 of the Manual clearly states the principle of parliamentary law that quorums are established by presence not by voting. Further, once a quorum is establish that quorum is presumed to remain until the absence of a quorum is established.
- True. Section 560-17 of the Manual restates the constitutional concept that legislative assemblies are continuous bodies and have the right to exercise their constitutional powers through the term to which they are elected. Once of those powers is to judge the qualifications and election of the members of the body.
- True. Section 631 of the Manual states that citizen participation in legislative proceedings is vital to ensure a fully informed and representative legislature. To ensure full and unfettered participation by citizens their participation is privileged speech, insulated from legal action.
- False. Section 739-4 of the Manual states that the duty of a presiding officer to sign legislation is a legislative act and that the authority to enforce the duty to sign rests with the body. The duty of presiding officers to sign passed legislation is one of the underpinnings of the "enrolled bill" rule. The presumption is that by signing the act the presiding officers certify that all constitutionally required steps for final passage were followed and that the contents of the act are as adopted by the bodies. What recourse does the body have if a presiding officer arbitrarily refuses to sign an act? The Manual says that the body may order the officer to sign, replace the officer with one who will, or establish a pro tempore with authority to sign. Allowing a presiding officer to refuse to sign and defeat the will of the legislature would grant powers to that officer not provided for in the constitution.
- False: Section 729 provides that the enacting clause is a statement declaring enactment by the proper legislative authority which every bill must contain. Section 146-4 of the Manual characterizes an amendment to strike a bill's enacting clause as a method to kill a bill.
7-9 correct answers: You're a parliamentary expert.
4-7 correct: Better brush up on Mason's.
Less than 4 correct: Start reading Mason's and don't attempt any parliamentary maneuver until you check with your parliamentarian.