Vernor v. State

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtSTONE
Citation179 Mich. 157,146 N.W. 338
Decision Date26 March 1914
PartiesVERNOR et al. v. SECRETARY OF STATE.

179 Mich. 157
146 N.W. 338

VERNOR et al.
v.
SECRETARY OF STATE.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

March 26, 1914.


Mandamus on relation of James Vernor and another against the Secretary of State of Michigan. Mandamus ordered to issue.

Argued before McALVAY, C. J., and MOORE, BROOKE, KUHN, STONE, OSTRANDER, BIRD, and STEERE, JJ.

[146 N.W. 338]

Fred A. Baker and Richard I. Lawson, both of Detroit, for relators.

Grant Fellows, Atty. Gen., L. W. Carr, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.


STONE, J.

The relators have petitioned this court for a writ of mandamus to compel the Secretary of State to grant them licenses for their automobiles for the year 1914, under the provisions of Act No. 318 of the Public Acts of 1909, alleging, among other things, that Act No. 181 of the Public Acts

[146 N.W. 339]

of 1913, which is amendatory of Act No. 318, is unconstitutional and void. The suit is brought to test the constitutionality of the act of 1913.

Relators, in their petition, claim that the Secretary of State should have granted their application because said amendatory Act No. 181 of the Public Acts of 1913 is unconstitutional and void for the following reasons, among others:

(a) That said Act No. 318 of the Public Acts of 1909 was designed to be and provides for a system of licensing, registration, identification, and regulation of motor vehicles upon the public highways. That Act No. 181 of the Public Acts of 1913 purports to amend said Act No. 318, and provides for a system of taxation of motor vehicles, both specific and ad valorem, thereby changing the entire purpose and object of the law without changing its title.

(b) That the title of said Act No. 181 does not disclose its object and purpose, inasmuch as the body of the act provides in certain cases an exemption from taxation of motor vehicles upon an ad valorem basis; whereas, the original (No. 318) act provides only for the registration, identification, and regulation of motor vehicles, and extends no further.

Act No. 318 of the Public Acts of 1909 bears the following title: ‘An act providing for the registration, identification and regulation of motor vehicles operated upon the public highways of this state, and of the operators of such vehicles.’

Act No. 181 of the Public Acts of 1913, has the following title: ‘An act to amend sections two, four, five, fifteen and eighteen of Act number three hundred eighteen of the Public Acts of nineteen hundred nine, entitled ‘An act providing for the registration, identification and regulation of motor vehicles operated upon the public highways of this state, and of the operators of such vehicles.’'

[1] It is the claim of relators that Act No. 318 of the Public Acts of 1909 was designed as a police measure merely, and provided for the registration, identification and regulation of motor vehicles upon the highways, while Act No. 181 of the Public Acts of 1913, which is amendatory of said Act No. 318, provides, in its body, for a system of taxation of motor vehicles, both specific and ad valorem, thereby changing the entire purpose and object of the law without changing its title; that by its terms property that was theretofore exempt, as in the case of motor vehicles owned by cities, is now taxed, and property is exempted that was theretofore taxed on an ad valorem basis, as is instanced in the case of all motor vehicles, except those owned by municipalities. That the legislation upon this subject before 1913 was regulatory in its nature, and was in the exercise of the police power of the state, has been recognized by this court in a number of cases. People v. Dow, 155 Mich. 115, 118 N. W. 745;Johnson v. Sergeant, 168 Mich. 444, 134 N. W. 468;Daugherty v. Thomas, 174 Mich. 371-390, 140 N. W. 615.

That such legislation cannot be changed in its object and character from the exercise of the police power to the exercise of the taxing power of the state without changing the title of the original act must, we think, be conceded.

[2] Section 21 of article 5 of the Constitution provides as follows: ‘No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title.’

What is the constitutional test? We think it is that a title must embrace the object of the act, and the body of the act must not be inconsistent with the title. The pertinent questions should be: Does the title of the act fairly indicate the purpose of the legislation? Is the title a fair index of the act? Does the title of the act fairly inform the legislators and the public of its purposes, as a whole?

In Brooks v. Hydorn, 76 Mich. 273, 278, 42 N. W. 1122, 1123, Justice Morse, speaking for this court, said: ‘This purpose of the constitutional direction which has been disregarded in this act, is that the intent of the bill-its object-shall be clearly shown by its title for the benefit, not only of the members of the Legislature who are to vote upon it, but also for the benefit of the state outside of the Legislature, who are interested, and have a right to be, in all legislation, whether the same be general or special.’

To the same point, we direct attention to the following cases: Callaghan v. Chipman, 59 Mich. 610-614, 26 N. W. 806;Wilcox v. Paddock, 65 Mich. 23, 31 N. W. 609;Eaton v. Walker, 76 Mich. 579, 43 N. W. 638,6 L. R. A. 102;Davies v. Bd. of Supervisors, 89 Mich. 295, 50 N. W. 862;Grand Rapids v. Judge, 93 Mich. 469, 53 N. W. 620;In re Snyder, 108 Mich. 48, 65 N. W. 562;Fish v. Stockdale, 111 Mich. 46, 69 N. W. 92;Lansing v. Bd. of State Auditors, 111 Mich. 327.69 N. W. 723;Blades v. Water Com'rs of Detroit, 122 Mich. 366, 81 N. W. 271;Savings Bank v. Auditor General, 123 Mich. 511, 82 N. W. 214.

It is urged by relators that the title of this act gives no indication that the whole system of taxing a large amount of personal property in the character of motor vehicles was to be changed entirely, and that property that had been theretofore taxed upon an ad valorem basis was to be exempted from the payment of a tax; that the titles of the original act and the amendatory act are the same, yet the bodies of the two acts are utterly, totally, and entirely distinct from each other; that the subjects are not germane to each other; that one is a taxing measure, and the other is a mere licensing of regulatory measure.

[146 N.W. 340]

[3] This brings us to the question: Has the act of 1913 changed the character of the legislation from a regulatory and licensing measure to one of taxation? The original act of 1909 was an exercise of the police power of the state, and among the regulations imposed on motor vehicles and their owners and operators was the requirement that each machine should be registered, and a license for its use on the highways obtained on the payment of a fee of $3. While the word ‘license’ is not mentioned in the title, it is repeatedly used in the body of the act, and is sufficiently covered by the words ‘registration, identification, and regulation’ in the title.

It is the claim of the relators that the amendatory act of 1913 changes the body of the act without changing its original title, and, as the taxes imposed could not have been included in the original act, the amendatory act is invalid, citing People v. Gadway, 61 Mich. 285, 28 N. W. 101,1 Am. St. Rep. 578;Stewart v. Fr. Matthews Society, 41 Mich. 67, 1 N. W. 931.

It is also claimed that in the construction of statutes, as well as in municipal charters, it is well settled that the power to regulate and license does not include the power to tax, although reasonable license fees (even for the purposes of revenue as a regulation) may be imposed; and the following cases are cited: City of Saginaw v. Saginaw Circuit Judge, 106 Mich. 32, 63 N. W. 985;O'Hara v. Collier, 173 Mich. 611, 139 N. W. 870, and cases cited.

The amendatory act expressly provides that the registration fees paid ‘shall exempt such motor vehicles from all other forms of taxation,’ with this proviso that ‘motor vehicles in stock or bond,’ in factories or garages not dealers in motor vehicles, are not to be exempt from taxes as personal property. It is urged that these provisions give character to the amendatory act, and render its invalidity a certainty, unless the court can strike out the exemption from taxation, and leave the remaining portions of the act in force as a license law pure and simple, that this would be exercising on the part of the court legislative power, as the Legislature clearly intended to exempt from other taxation, and that it cannot be said that the Legislature would have passed the act with the exemption from taxation omitted, and that it is only where that which is left of the act is complete in itself, sensible, capable of being executed, and wholly independent of that which is rejected, that the act as emasculated can be sustained, citing Callaghan v. Chipman, 59 Mich. 614, 26 N. W. 807. This court there said: ‘The principal questions in each case will therefore be whether the act is broader than the title, and, if so, then whether the other objects in the act are so intimately connected with the one indicated by the title that the portion of the act relating to them cannot be rejected, and leave a complete and sensible enactment which is capable of being executed.’

[4] It is well settled that the courts cannot enlarge the scope of the title. The Constitution has made the title the index to the legislative...

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85 practice notes
  • Bolt v. City of Lansing, Docket No. 192944.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • January 25, 2000
    ...the Bolt test. In Merrelli v. St. Clair Shores, 355 Mich. 575, 583, 96 N.W.2d 144 (1959), the Court quoted Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 167, 146 N.W. 338 (1914), for the proposition that a fee must be for regulation, not as a means primarily of producing revenue, and that it......
  • National Cable Television Ass'n, Inc. v. F. C. C., Nos. 75-1053 and 75-1132
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 16, 1976
    ...348 U.S. 865, 75 S.Ct. 87, 99 L.Ed. 681 (1954); Cook County v. Fairbank, 222 Ill. 578, 78 N.E. 895 (1906); Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N.W. 338 (1914); Willis v. Standard Oil Co., 50 Minn. 290, 52 N.W. 652 (1892); State v. Cox, 91 N.H. 137, 16 A.2d 508 (1940), aff'd, 31......
  • Rohan v. Detroit Racing Ass'n, No. 45.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 10, 1946
    ...authority to the department of agriculture to lease State-owned land for the conduct of horse racing. Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N.W. 338, Ann.Cas.1915D, 128;Shepherd v. Judge of Recorder's Court of City of Detroit, 175 Mich. 193, 141 N.W. 556; Chambers v, City of Gran......
  • Huston v. City of Des Moines, No. 30734.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 11, 1916
    ...Ex parte Cramer, 62 Tex. Cr. R. 11, 136 S. W. 61, 36 L. R. A. (N. S.) 78, Ann. Cas. 1913C, 588, and note; Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N. W. 338, Ann. Cas. 1915D, 128. Our own cases support this proposition. City v. Putnam Ins. Co., 31 Iowa, 102;Iowa City v. Newell, 115 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
85 cases
  • Bolt v. City of Lansing, Docket No. 192944.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • January 25, 2000
    ...the Bolt test. In Merrelli v. St. Clair Shores, 355 Mich. 575, 583, 96 N.W.2d 144 (1959), the Court quoted Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 167, 146 N.W. 338 (1914), for the proposition that a fee must be for regulation, not as a means primarily of producing revenue, and that it......
  • National Cable Television Ass'n, Inc. v. F. C. C., Nos. 75-1053 and 75-1132
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 16, 1976
    ...348 U.S. 865, 75 S.Ct. 87, 99 L.Ed. 681 (1954); Cook County v. Fairbank, 222 Ill. 578, 78 N.E. 895 (1906); Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N.W. 338 (1914); Willis v. Standard Oil Co., 50 Minn. 290, 52 N.W. 652 (1892); State v. Cox, 91 N.H. 137, 16 A.2d 508 (1940), aff'd, 31......
  • Rohan v. Detroit Racing Ass'n, No. 45.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 10, 1946
    ...authority to the department of agriculture to lease State-owned land for the conduct of horse racing. Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N.W. 338, Ann.Cas.1915D, 128;Shepherd v. Judge of Recorder's Court of City of Detroit, 175 Mich. 193, 141 N.W. 556; Chambers v, City of Gran......
  • Huston v. City of Des Moines, No. 30734.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 11, 1916
    ...Ex parte Cramer, 62 Tex. Cr. R. 11, 136 S. W. 61, 36 L. R. A. (N. S.) 78, Ann. Cas. 1913C, 588, and note; Vernor v. Secretary of State, 179 Mich. 157, 146 N. W. 338, Ann. Cas. 1915D, 128. Our own cases support this proposition. City v. Putnam Ins. Co., 31 Iowa, 102;Iowa City v. Newell, 115 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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