State v. Collier

Decision Date01 February 1930
Citation23 S.W.2d 897,160 Tenn. 403
PartiesSTATE v. COLLIER et al.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Appeal from Chancery Court, Shelby County; M. C. Ketchum, Judge.

Suit by the State, for its own use and for the use of the County of Shelby and another, against W. A. Collier and others. Decree granting partial relief, and all parties appeal. Modified and affirmed, and cause remanded.

Klewer Gailor & Exby and J. N. Thomason, all of Memphis, for complainant.

Collier & Gollier and D. B. Puryear, all of Memphis, and J. S Pilcher, of Nashville, for defendants.

GREEN C.J.

This suit was brought by the state of Tennessee, for its own use and for the use of the county of Shelby and the city of Memphis, against several defendants named, to recover state county, and city taxes alleged to be delinquent for a number of years. The chancellor rendered a decree, in which the relief sought was partially granted and judgments rendered as to certain parcels of real estate. The proceedings were dismissed as to other parcels of real estate. Both sides have appealed. The case is before us on numerous assignments of error, which we shall undertake to consider separately.

The first proposition advanced on the hearing for defendants is that chapter 790 of the Private Acts of 1919, which act undertook to annex certain territory to Memphis, is unconstitutional, and that for this reason the chancellor's decree was erroneous, in so far as it adjudged defendants' liability for city taxes accruing under said act over a period of several years.

The objection urged against chapter 790 of the Acts of 1919 is that it did not pass the Senate according to the requirements of section 18 of article 2 of the Constitution which ordains that "no bill shall become a law until it shall have been read and passed, on three different days in each house."

We will assume for the present that, in the disposition of this question, we may refer to the bills as originally introduced in the House and in the Senate, as well as to the Journals of those bodies, in order to get the history of this legislation. From such sources, we find the following:

Senate Bill No. 1045 was "an Act to extend the corporate limits of the City of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, so as to embrace" territory then included in the town of Binghampton and certain territory between Binghampton and Memphis. We will refer to this as the Binghampton bill.

Senate Bill No. 1046 was "an Act to extend and change the corporate limits of the City of Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee," so as to add to the city a much larger territory, including the Binghampton territory. We will refer to this as the Greater Memphis bill.

House Bill No. 1146 was "an Act to extend the corporate limits of the City of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, so as to embrace" the Binghampton territory. This bill appears to have been identical in caption and body with Senate Bill No. 1045 above mentioned and will be referred to as the Binghampton bill.

House Bill No. 1236 was "an Act to extend and change the corporate limits of the city of Memphis in Shelby County, Tennessee," so as to include virtually the same territory described in Senate Bill No. 1046. This will be referred to as the Greater Memphis bill. There is a slight discrepancy in the description of the territory covered by the Senate Greater Memphis bill and the House Greater Memphis bill.

Both the Greater Memphis and Binghampton bills passed two readings in the Senate. The Binghampton bill passed two readings in the House. The Greater Memphis bill passed a third reading in the House and was transmitted to the Senate. The Senate Journal then shows:

"'Senate Bill No. 1045-To extend the corporate limits of Memphis.

On motion Senate Bill No. 1045 was made to conform with House Bill No. 1236.

On motion House Bill No. 1236 on the same subject was substituted for Senate Bill No. 1045, and put on its third and final reading for passage.

On motion of Mr. Rice (of Shelby), the following amendment was adopted:

Amendment No. 1. Amend by striking out the words "first day of September, 1919" wherever the same appears in said bill, and inserting in lieu thereof the words the first day of December, 1919.

On a call of the roll the House (Senate) Bill as amended passed by the following vote:

Ayes ... 24.

Noes .. 0."'

It is argued for the defendants that Senate Bill 1045 was a bill with a restrictive caption covering only the Binghampton territory; that House Bill 1236 was a bill with a general caption covering unlimited territory; that House Bill 1236 was substituted for Senate Bill 1045, and, the two being on different subjects and dealing with different territory, Senate Bill 1045 was therefore not read three times in the Senate, and chapter 790 of the Acts of 1919, thus originating, is not a valid law.

It may be here stated that, when an act of the Legislature has been signed by the respective Speakers of both houses in open session, and that fact noted on the Journals, and has been approved by the Governor, every reasonable presumption is in favor of the regularity of its passage, and the act will be sustained unless the Journals affirmatively show the absence of some constitutional requirements. House v. Creveling, 147 Tenn. 589, 250 S.W. 357; Wilson v. State, 143 Tenn. 55, 224 S.W. 168, 171; Jackson v. Manufacturing Co., 124 Tenn. 421, 137 S.W. 757; Nelson v. Haywood County, 91 Tenn. 602, 20 S.W. 1; State ex rel. v. Algood, 87 Tenn. 163, 10 S.W. 310.

Since all these formalities appear to have attended the passage of the Greater Memphis Act, chapter 790 of the Acts of 1919, in order to set up defective passage in the Senate, the Journal of that body must establish this contention. We are of opinion that the Senate Journal demonstrates the contrary.

It is beyond dispute that the Senate Greater Memphis bill (No. 1046) passed that chamber on two readings before the House Greater Memphis bill (No. 1236) was transmitted. The Senate Journal then recites that House Bill No. 1236, which had been transmitted to the Senate "on the same subject" as a designated Senate Bill was substituted for that Senate Bill "and put on its third and final reading for passage," and after an amendment as to its effective date was passed.

For what Senate Bill was the House Bill substituted? For the Senate Bill on the same subject as the House Bill. What Senate Bill was on the same subject? The Greater Memphis bill with an identical caption and with slight difference in body. In a constitutional sense the subject and the object of a bill are equivalent terms. Lewis' Southerland on Statutory Construction (2d Ed.) § 116, 25 R. C. L., p. 834.

Senate Bill No. 1045 and Senate Bill No. 1046 are not on the same subject. No. 1045, the Binghampton bill, had for its object the annexation to Memphis of a very limited territory. No. 1046, the Greater Memphis bill, had for its object the annexation to Memphis of an extensive territory. Likewise Senate Bill No. 1045 was not on the same subject as House Bill No. 1236, while Senate Bill No. 1046 was on the same subject as House Bill No. 1236.

At the most it can only be said that the Senate Journal entry under consideration is somewhat ambiguous, in that the words and figures of said entry do not harmonize. This ambiguity might be resolved by the application of familiar rule of construction of written instruments that words prevail over figures where there is a conflict between them.

As said by the Minnesota court in a case similar to this: "The file number is no legal or constitutional part of the title of a bill. It is merely designed for the convenience of the legislative members and clerks. It may therefore be rejected as surplusage, and, if this is done, there is neither defect nor ambiguity in the legislative journals." Miesen v. Canfield, 64 Minn. 513, 67 N.W. 632, 633.

The case before us is ruled by Wilson v. State, supra. In that case Senate Bill No. 1158 and House Bill No. 1221 were identical. House Bill No. 1221 and House Bill No. 1220, both applicable to Lincoln county, but upon different subjects, had passed two readings. Senate Bill No. 1158, counterpart of House Bill No. 1221, passed three readings in the Senate and was transmitted to the House. The House Journal showed the following entry:

"'On motion, Senate Bill No. 1158, on the same subject, was substituted for House Bill 1220. Thereupon Senate Bill No. 1158 passed its third and final reading. A motion to reconsider was tabled."'

Dealing with this situation, the court said:

"The bill involved in the instant case was identical in caption and body with House Bill No. 1221. It was duly and regularly read once on three different days and passed each time in the Senate before being transmitted from that body to the House. It was duly and regularly read once, on two different days, and passed each time in the House, being referred to as House Bill No. 1221. It was read and passed another and third day in the House, being referred to as Senate Bill No. 1158, before being transmitted from the House back to the Senate. It was read and passed on three different days in the Senate, as Senate Bill No. 1158. It was thus read and passed on three different days in the House, twice as House Bill No. 1221, and the third time as Senate Bill No. 1158, substituted. It received on its final passage in the House the assent of the majority of the members of the House. It was signed by the respective speakers in open session, and the fact of such signing was noted on the respective journals. It was thereafter duly signed and approved by the Governor. We think, therefore, that every requirement of section 18 of article 2 of the Constitution was complied with."

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