Annotate this Case

1955 OK 223
286 P.2d 1094
Case Number: 36947
Decided: 07/20/1955
Supreme Court of Oklahoma





¶0 1. Joint resolutions of the Legislature proposing amendments to the State Constitution are not "laws" or "acts" in the strict sense, and the provisions of Article 5, Section 57, prohibiting acts of the Legislature from embracing more than one subject, do not apply thereto.

2. In the present case, where pursuant to such joint resolution, the voters of this State approved, by ballot title, an amendment to the Constitution proposed as above indicated by both Houses of the Legislature, and a petition was filed in this Court which, in its second alleged cause of action, challenged, as misleading and in violation of Article 24, Section 1 of the Constitution, the proposal and ballot title whereby such amendment was submitted at the election thereon; Held: In view of the presumption attending the acts of the lawmaking officials involved, the allegations set forth in said second cause of action were insufficient to support said challenge and to warrant granting the relief prayed for.

3. Where, in the first of her alleged causes of action, petitioner maintained that House Bill No. 786 of the Twenty-Fifth Legislature making appropriations "* * * For The Support Of The Oklahoma Planning And Resources Board * * *" violates Art. 5, Secs. 56 and 57 because Secs. 8 and 9 thereof provide for the building of a dam by the Oklahoma Game and Fish Commission, but petitioner did not demonstrate that the building of such dam was unrelated to the general subject or purpose of said appropriations bill; Held: In accord with the presumptions of constitutionality accompanying such acts of the Legislature, the allegations set forth as said cause of action constitute no sufficient basis for declaring said Act unconstitutional and granting the injunction prayed for.

[286 P.2d 1095]

Original action by Petitioner seeking the invalidation of House Bills No. 786 and No. 941 of the Twenty-Fifth Legislature, and an injunction against the issuance and payment by Respondents of warrants under certain provisions thereof. Petition Denied.

Sid White, Oklahoma City, for petitioner.

Mac Q. Williamson, Atty. Gen., Fred Hansen, F. Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondents.


¶1 This is an original action instituted in this Court by petitioner, as a resident taxpayer of this State, to enjoin, on her behalf and others similarly situated, the respondent State Auditor from issuing, and the respondent State Treasurer from paying, any State warrants out of two separate funds appropriated by the Regular Session of the last, or Twenty-Fifth Oklahoma Legislature. The fund dealt with in petitioner's first cause of action is the sum of $125,000 appropriated by Sec. 9 of said Legislature's House Bill No. 786, from the State's general fund to be used by the Oklahoma Game and Fish Commission to build a dam on Gates Creek in Choctaw County. The fund dealt with in petitioner's second cause of action is the sum of $1,250,000, which said Legislature's House Bill No. 941, purports to appropriate out of monies derived from the sale of "State of Oklahoma Building Bonds of 1955" for various State institutions named therein, and certain described additions and improvements to the Will Rogers Memorial at Claremore, and the construction of a museum at Pioneer Woman State Park, at Ponca City.

¶2 [286 P.2d 1096] For convenience we will deal with petitioner's second alleged cause of action first. In it, she alleges facts showing that House Bill No. 941 was enacted pursuant to a recent election at which the people of the State voted certain amendments and additions to Art. 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Such submission to the people of the question of whether said article should be so changed was proposed by said Legislature's Joint Resolution No. 504, passed in March of this year, pursuant to authority contained in Art. 24, Sec. 1 of the Constitution, which reads in part as follows:

"Any amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed in either branch of the Legislature, and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each of the two houses, such proposed amendment or amendments shall, with the yeas and nays thereon, be entered in their journals and referred by the Secretary of State to the people for their approval or rejection, at the next regular general election * * *. If a majority of all the electors voting at such election shall vote in favor of any amendment thereto, it shall thereby become a part of this Constitution."

¶3 At the primary election held July 1, 1952, the following amendment of the above-quoted section was submitted to the people as State Question No. 353, and adopted:

"No proposal for the amendment or alteration of this Constitution which is submitted to the voters shall embrace more than one general subject and the voters shall vote separately for or against each proposal submitted; provided, however, that in the submission of proposals for the amendment of this Constitution by articles, which embrace one general subject, each proposed article shall be deemed a single proposal or proposition." (Emphasis ours.) O.S.Supp.Const. art. 24, § 1.

¶4 The "proposal" made in Joint Resolution No. 504 for "amendment or alteration" of the Constitution's Art. 10, later effected by House Bill No. 941, was by ballot title set forth in the Joint Resolution's Sec. 2 as follows:

"The Gist of the Proposition is as Follows:

"Shall a Constitutional Amendment Amending Article X, Oklahoma Constitution, Sections 9, 10, and 26, by providing for ad valorem taxes for public schools and placing restrictions thereon and limiting consideration thereof in State guaranteed school program, authorizing additional uses of levy heretofore made for erecting public buildings, increasing debt limit of school districts for certain purposes, removing limitations on certain contracts beyond current year, and by adding Sections 32 and 33 to said Article X to provide additional funds for buildings for school districts, and for buildings and capital improvements at State institutions, be approved by the people?"

¶5 Petitioner charges that the above-quoted ballot title violates Art. 24, Sec. 1 of the Constitution, amended as above shown, in that it embraced "more than one general subject"; and that the people were thereby misled into approving, by their votes at said election, the participation by the above-named "State Park" and Will Rogers Memorial in an appropriation "for building and capital improvements at State institutions * * *". Respondents, on the other hand, urge that the proposal does not embrace more than one general subject, and that said park and memorial are "State institutions".

¶6 This Court has not previously had occasion to consider the above-quoted 1952 amendment to Article 24, Section 1, supra, and neither of the parties cite instances in which such a provision in any other State's Constitution has been construed by the Courts. However, independent research reveals that similar provisions have been construed and applied by the courts of many other states. See State ex rel. Morris v. Mason, 43 La. Ann. 590, 9 So. 776, and other cases cited in the Annotations beginning at 94 A.L.R. 1510. From the better reasoned [286 P.2d 1097] of the opinions cited and others which recognize that such constitutional provisions are to receive a liberal, rather than a narrow or technical construction, which would overthrow proper legislation, especially where, as here, it has, previous to its enactment, been submitted to the people with the opportunity to discuss it and inform themselves concerning it, we find that generally provisions governing projects so related as to constitute a single scheme may be properly included within the same amendment; and that matters germane to the same general subject indicated in the amendment's title, or within the field of legislation suggested thereby, may be included therein. In this connection, see Perry v. Jordan, 34 Cal. 2d 87,

¶7 We have carefully examined all of the provisions of Joint Resolution No. 504, and have concluded that, when considered as a whole, they show that the general subject and purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment was to enable the State, as well as its school districts, to surmount previous limitations and inadequacies in their constitutional authority for raising funds. We think this general purpose was sufficiently declared in the resolution and, this being true, the details provided for its accomplishment in the law thereafter enacted may be regarded as incidents, Perry v. Jordan, supra, "`necessary or convenient or tend(ing) to the accomplishment of one general design notwithstanding other purposes than the main design may be thereby subserved.'" State v. Moore, 76 Ark. 197, 88 S.W. 881, 884, 70 L.R.A. 671. State ex rel. Morris v. Mason, supra [43 La. Ann. 590, 9 So. 777], involved a proposal to incorporate into the Constitution "`"An article on levies, schools, charities, pensions, drainage, lotteries * * *"'". Despite the seeming incongruity and apparent lack of logical relationship between the subjects quoted, the Court, in that case, upon a careful analysis of the matter and application of the above-cited principles, determined that the proposed addition to the Constitution had but one general object, namely: "* * * the extension of relator's lottery contract for a term of 25 years." Likewise, in the present case it is our opinion that though the means contemplated in the proposed constitutional amendment for realizing funds was to benefit more than just the school districts of the State, yet this did not alter the general subject or scheme of said proposal. Nor can we say that the ballot title was misleading. Petitioner intimates that, as it was worded, it enabled the Governor, and perhaps other advocates of the proposed amendment, to mislead the voters into believing that all money raised in accord with the proposed amendment would be used exclusively for school purposes. We cannot accept this allegation as sufficient to discharge petitioner's burden of establishing its invalidity in view of the following wording of the ballot title: "* * * and by adding Sections 32 and 33 to said Article X to provide additional funds for buildings for school districts, and for buildings and capital improvements at State institutions * * *." (Emphasis ours.) As pointed out by respondents the length of such a title is necessarily limited to 100 words by Tit.

"The courts should exercise their power of declaring an act of the Legislature void because in conflict with the Constitution with great caution, and only when the terms of the Constitution have been plainly violated.

"The same presumption in favor of the validity of a legislative enactment is indulged with reference to its form and the observance of the constitutional prerequisites and conditions as in case of the subject-matter of the legislation."

¶8 As hereinbefore indicated there is no showing of the alleged effect, or invalidity under the Constitution's Article 24, Sec. 1, of the questioned proposal for said document's alteration, except the allegations of the petitioner herself. Without some showing of substance or basis in fact for these allegations, we cannot without departing from the principles herein cited, allow them to overthrow an amendment that has been made pursuant to mandate of the people. We therefore hold that petitioner's second alleged cause of action establishes neither sufficient cause for striking down, as unconstitutional, the law enacted as House Bill No. 941, nor for enjoining Respondents as she prays.

¶9 Petitioner's first cause of action dealing with House Bill No. 786 is predicated upon the fact that by Sections 8 and 9 thereof, it purports to amend Sections 1 and 2 of House Bill No. 1065 of the Twenty-Fourth Oklahoma Legislature,

"Every act of the Legislature shall embrace but one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except general appropriation bills, general revenue bills, and bills adopting a code, digest, or revision of statutes; and no law shall be revived, amended, or the provisions thereof extended or conferred, by reference to its title only; but so much thereof as is revived, amended, extended, or conferred shall be re-enacted and published at length: Provided, That if any subject be embraced in any act contrary to the provisions of this section, such act shall be void only as to so much of the law as may not be expressed in the title thereof."

¶10 [286 P.2d 1099] A reading of the title of House Bill No. 786 plainly shows that it is an appropriation bill to enable The Oklahoma Planning And Resources Board to carry out its work or functions. One of the divisions of said Board, for which money is therein appropriated, is the "Division Of Tourist And Outdoor Recreation"; and one of the statutory duties of said Board, according to the Act creating it, Tit.

"Chief Justice Marshall, who first authoritatively announced the doctrine that courts possess such power, subsequently said: `The question whether a law be void for its repugnancy to the Constitution is at all times a question of much delicacy, which ought seldom, if ever, to be decided in the affirmative in a doubtful case. The court, when impelled by duty to render such a judgment, would be unworthy of its station could it be unmindful of the solemn obligation which that station imposes; but it is not on slight implication and vague conjecture that the Legislature is to be pronounced to have transcended its powers, and its acts to be considered void. The opposition between the Constitution and the law should be such that the judge feels a clear and strong conviction of their incompatibility with each other.' Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 3 L. Ed. 162. A similar expression is given by the same learned court in the case of Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213, 6 L. Ed. 606, where Mr. Justice Washington said: `But if I could rest my opinion in favor of the constitutionality of the law on which the question arises on no other ground than this doubt so felt and acknowledged, that alone would, in my estimation, be a satisfactory indication of it. It is but a decent respect due to the wisdom, the integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative body by which any law is passed to presume in favor of its validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond all reasonable doubt.'"

¶11 In Hill v. Rae, 52 Mont. 378, 158 P. 826, L.R.A. 1917A, 495, Ann.Cas. 1917E, 210, the constitutionality of an appropriation law was challenged under a provision of the Montana Constitution similar to Art. 5, sec. 56, of our own Constitution, upon which the petitioner also relies. There the Court held that there is no violation of [286 P.2d 1100] such provision where the Legislature appropriated funds to carry out the various objects for which a State bureau or commission was created, and we think that on principle it can make no possible difference that the objects for which a board, bureau or commission was created are as varied and comprehensive as those of the Oklahoma Planning and Resources Board. In accord with the principles and tests set forth therein for arriving at what is a single subject "in a constitutional sense", in Griffin v. Thomas, 86 Okl. 70, 206 P. 604, a 1917 law, c. 252, entitled an Act relating to the formation of Union Graded School Districts and providing for certain Consolidated Schools to participate in money appropriated by the Legislature and prescribing requirements therefor, was held to relate "primarily to only one general subject, namely, public schools of the state", and to be beyond the inhibition of Sec. 57, Art. 5, supra. Likewise, in Dunlap v. Board of Comm'rs, 85 Okl. 295, 205 P. 1100, this Court held that a statute entitled An Act relating to Road and Bridge Improvement Bonds, providing for the sale of unsold bonds issued to secure Federal aid, and empowering county commissioners under certain conditions to designate State highways, also related "primarily to only one general subject, namely, public roads * * *", and was not repugnant to Sec. 57, Art. 5, supra. The case of In re Lee, 64 Okl. 310, 168 P. 53, L.R.A. 1918B, 144, was a challenge of the constitutionality of the 1915 law, c. 87, creating the Supreme Court Commission, which law contained one section providing for the deposit of a docket fee of $25 in lieu of the court costs previously required by law to be deposited with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. There this Court held that said statute did not embrace "more than one subject within the meaning of section 57, art. 5 * * *". More recently in National Mut. Casualty Co. v. Briscoe, 188 Okl. 440,

¶12 Petition denied.

¶13 JOHNSON, C.J., and WELCH, CORN, DAVISON and HALLEY, JJ., concur.

¶14 WILLIAMS, V.C.J., dissents.



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