|Home -> James H. Barry Press -> Story of the Session of the California Legislature of 1909 -> Chapter 7|
Passage of the Walker-Otis Bill.
Anti-Machine Element Forced the Issue and Compelled Early Action on the Measure - Evidence That Machine Planned to Defeat or Amend the Bill by Delaying Its Passage Until Toward the End of the Session.
As one looks back over the exciting first five weeks of the session, when the Walker-Otis bill was under consideration, it is plain that the machine would have preferred to have made its initial fight in the Senate. If defeated in the Senate, the enemies of the measure could have jockeyed for delay, prevented the passage of the measure until the closing hours of the session, and then killed it or forced its supporters to accept amendments.
But the initial fight did not come in the Senate. The Assembly was the battle-ground. The reason for this lies principally in the fact that while Assemblyman W. B. Griffiths, of Napa, raises fast horses, he is not a gambler, and is as much opposed to the bookmaking, pool-selling features of the track as Senator Walker himself. Griffiths was made chairman of the Assembly Committee on Public Morals. While this committee has sundry sins to answer for, nevertheless it made an astonishingly clean record on the Walker-Otis bill. On January 18, less than three weeks after the Legislature had assembled, Chairman Griffiths called his committee together to take up the Walker-Otis bill.
Of the nine members of the committee, seven were present, Mott and Mendenhall alone failing to answer to their names. Those present were: Griffiths, Cattell, Young, Dean, Perine, Fleisher and Wilson. The seven members went through the bill paragraph by paragraph and decided unanimously to recommend it for passage.
Had a dynamite bomb been set off under the Emeryville gambling establishment, greater consternation could scarcely have seized upon the pro-gambling element. The gamblers realized that the committee's prompt action threatened the machine's plan to delay action on the measure until the closing days of the session. For the moment all interest centered in Mott and Mendenhall, the two members of the committee who had been absent when the measure had been considered. Twenty-four hours developed the fact that Mendenhall sanctioned the action of his seven associates. This made eight of the nine committeemen for the bill. But the ninth member, Assemblyman Mott of Alameda County, was very much offended at what the committee had done.
Assemblyman Mott was elected as a Lincoln-Roosevelt League member. Probably the Lincoln-Roosevelt League does not like to be reminded of that unfortunate fact. But the lesson of Mr. Mott is so necessary for the Lincoln-Roosevelt League and all other reform movements that the conspicuous part which Mott played against reform policies cannot be too much insisted upon. To be sure, Mr. Mott voted for the bill when it was up for passage - the Lincoln-Roosevelt Republican platform of his county pledged him to it. But there is a deal of difference between supporting a measure and voting for it.
Mott was very much offended at what the committee had done and demanded that another meeting be held. Such a meeting, to accommodate Mr. Mott, was held - held in the office of Speaker Phil Stanton; held behind closed doors; held with Jerk Burke, Southern Pacific lobbyist, safely entrenched across the hall from Speaker Stanton's office in the back office of Sergeant-at-Arms Stafford.
But Mott failed to change the position of his eight associates. The further consideration of the measure by the committee which he demanded was denied. He accordingly took the fight for reconsideration to the floor of the Assembly. The fact that eight of the committee were against him, apparently had no weight at all with Mr. Mott.
Failing to force the committee to reconsider its action in recommending that the bill pass, Mott told his troubles to the Assembly. In the Assembly Mott moved that the measure be re-referred to the Committee on Public Morals, eight members of which had joined in recommending that it "do pass."
The motion was lost by a vote of 53 to 23. This was recognized as the test vote in the Assembly on the Anti Racetrack Gambling bill. That the opponents of the bill failed to make a better showing fairly paralyzed the pro-gambling lobby. Mott, chagrined and discomfited, retired in confusion.
Assemblyman Gibbons managed at this point to tie the bill up for another day, by giving notice that on the day following, he would move that the vote by which the bill was refused reference to the Committee on Public Morals be reconsidered. The day following Mr. Gibbons made his motion but was voted down, thirty Assemblymen supporting and forty-eight opposing him.
The Gibbons motion having been disposed of, Assemblyman Butler moved to amend the measure, by substituting for it the Martinelli-Butler bill. But again did the anti-gambling element force the issue. The motion was lost by a vote of 23 to 52.
Other proposed amendments having been voted down, Mr. Otis moved that the bill be put on its passage the next day, January 21. This was a final blow at the machine's purpose to delay the passage of the bill as long as possible, and was met with determined opposition. But the motion prevailed by a vote of 44 to 32.
The bill was on the following day put upon its final passage. The writer considers the real test vote on the bill was cast on Mott's motion to refer the measure back to the Committee on Public Morals. The vote on the passage of the measure counts for little under the circumstances. Sixty-seven Assemblymen voted for it; only ten - and every one of them from San Francisco - voted against it.
By consulting the table showing the six votes on this bill - Table "D" of the appendix - it will be seen that eleven of the twenty-three Assemblymen who voted for Mott's motion to refer the measure back to the Committee on Public Morals voted for its final passage. Two, Baxter and Schmitt, who had voted for the Mott resolution, were absent when the final vote on the bill was taken, leaving only ten who had voted for the Mott resolution to vote against the bill. The eleven who had voted for Mott's motion, but who switched to safety when the vote on the bill's passage came, were: Beardslee, Greer, Johnson of Sacramento, Johnson of San Diego, Johnston of Contra Costa, Moore, Mott, Nelson, Odom, Wagner, Webber - 11.
There was just one more parliamentary move by which the Walker-Otis bill could be delayed in the Assembly, to give notice of a motion to reconsider the vote by which the measure had been passed. Grove L. Johnson came to the rescue with the notice. This tied the bill up for another twenty-four hours. On the 2nd Johnson made his motion to reconsider but was defeated by a vote of nineteen to fifty-seven.
The table of the six votes on the Walker-Otis bill shows at a glance who voted consistently for the measure on all of the numerous roll calls; who voted consistently against it; and who were pulled backward and forward, voting one moment to satisfy the public demand that the bill be passed, and the next on the side of the gambling interests.
Public opinion was running high for the passage of the Walker-Otis bill by the time the measure reached the Senate, after passing the Assembly, but the bill might still have been held up in the Senate committee had it not been for the ridiculous attack which Tom Williams, president of the California jockey Club, made upon all who supported the measure, or all who Williams thought supported it.
The occasion was a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Morals, at which Williams was asked to present the side of the opponents of the bill. The crowd that filled the Senate chamber expected from Williams some reasons why the measure should be denied passage, but it was disappointed.
Instead of giving reasons in support of his position, Williams introduced the methods of the barroom into the Senate chamber. He dramatically gave Rev. Frank K. Baker, of Sacramento, the lie, under conditions which stamped Williams as a bully and a coward. His uncalled-for attack on Dr. Baker would have killed his argument, but not content with this, he made probably the most astounding attack on the Protestant clergy of the country ever heard in California, certainly the most astonishing ever heard in the Senate chamber of the State.
The racetrack man's tirade did not give the reasons for continuance of gambling, which the people expected to hear from him. Finally, when Williams was swamped by questions which his insolence and tactlessness had provoked, Senator Frank Leavitt came to his rescue by moving adjournment. Leavitt's motion prevailed, but not until Williams had effectively settled the fate of the Walker-Otis bill.
The Committee on Public Morals reported the bill back the next day with the recommendation that it do not pass. The recommendation was that of Weed, Wolfe and Leavitt. While Kennedy and Savage failed to vote for the recommendation, they made no minority report. But even with the unfavorable report, the measure passed the Senate by a vote of 33 to 7. In the eleventh hour, uncertain Senators like Welch joined the winning side, but the showing made by the gamblers was, all things considered, better than could have been expected.
In the Senate and Assembly, out of a total vote of 120, the gambling element, which had year after year succeeded in preventing the passage of an anti-racetrack gambling bill, commanded on the measure's final passage but seventeen votes. The incident illustrates what aroused public opinion, when it finds expression in a definite plan of action, can compel.
But even with the measure's final passage, the delays that attended it continued. It passed the Senate on Thursday, February 4. By the following Saturday, the measure had been correctly engrossed, but could not go to the Governor until it had received the signature of Speaker Stanton of the Assembly. Stanton was out of town. As a result, it was February 10, six days after it had passed the Senate, before it went to the Governor. Governor Gillett took nine days to sign it, the Senate History showing that it was approved on February 19. Because of the delays the gamblers were enabled to complete their season at the Emeryville track.
 Of the six votes taken in the Assembly on the Walker-Otis bill issue, Mott in effect voted four times against the immediate passage of the measure. See Table "D."
 It was Jerk Burke's first appearance at the capital for the session. The danger which threatened the gambling element brought to the capital every machine lobbyist within reach, from Frank Daroux down. It was an anxious hour for the machine.
 This first test vote in the Assembly on the Walker-Otis bill was as follows:
For Mott's motion, and in effect against the bill: Baxter, Beardslee, Beban, Black, Coghlan, Collum, Cullen, Greer, Hopkins, Johnson of Sacramento (Grove L.), Johnson of San Diego, Johnston of Contra Costa, Macauley, McManus, Moore, Mott, Nelson, Odom, O'Neil, Pugh, Schmitt, Wagner, Webber. - 23.
Against Mott's motion, and in effect for the bill: Barndollar, Bratty, Bohnett, Butler, Callan, Cattell, Collier, Costar, Cronin, Dean, Drew, Flavelle, Fleisher, Flint, Gerdes, Gibbons, Gillis, Griffiths, Hammon, Hanlon, Hans. Hawk, Hayes, Hewitt, Hinkle, Holmquist, Irwin, Johnson of Placer, Juilliard, Kiwi, Leeds, Lightner, Maher, McClellan, Melrose, Mendenhall, Otis, Perine, Polsley, Preston, Pulcifer, Rech, Rutherford, Sackett, Silver, Stanton, Stuckenbruck, Telfer, Transue, Whitney, Wilson, Wylie, Young - 53.
 The several votes taken on the Walker-Otis bill will be found in the table "D" of the appendix.
 Johnson of Sacramento voted for the bill to give notice that he would the next day move for its reconsideration. Reconsideration can be secured only by a member voting with the majority. Had Johnson voted against the bill he could not have secured its reconsideration.
 Attention is called to the vote on reconsideration of Assemblyman Feeley, of Alameda, another Lincoln-Roosevelt member Mr. Feeley was absent when the vote on Mott's motion was taken. But Mr. Feeley voted for the bill when it was on final passage, thus keeping his record straight. But Mr. Feeley hastened to vote for reconsideration of the measure.
Mr. Feeley, like Mr. Mott, was nominated by the Lincoln-Roosevelt League because he could be elected. Mr. Feeley furnishes another example of the folly of which reformers are sometimes guilty, of nominating men whose best recommendation seems to be that they can be elected. To be elected is very important, to be sure; but if a man when elected to the Legislature is to vote against reform policies, why should the anti-machine element nominate him, thereby losing all the chance they, might have had of electing a man who would be in sympathy with their endeavors?
 In 1907, a measure similar to the Walker-Otis bill was killed in this way. It passed the Assembly and was in the Senate referred to the Senate Committee on Public Morals. The committee refused to report it back to the Senate, and friends of the measure could not secure enough votes on the floor of the Senate to compel the committee to act. The committee (1907) consisted of Senators Irish, Leavitt, Lynch, Wolfe and Kennedy. Irish and Lynch did not sit in the Senate of 1909, and could not be reappointed to the committee. But Lieutenant- Governor Porter distinguished himself by reappointing to the committee Wolfe, Leavitt and Kennedy. Weed and Savage were added to take the places left vacant by Irish and Lynch. Weed in 1907 voted with Leavitt, Wolfe and Kennedy against compelling the committee to release the Anti-Racetrack Gambling bill. Senator Savage (1907) voted for the bill's release, but Senator Savage at the opening of the session of 1909, was at least counted as opposed to the Walker-Otis bill. The gambling element had no complaint to make of the Committee on Public Morals which Lieutenant- Governor Porter had appointed.
 Williams was not the only gambler who injured the gamblers' cause that night. Frank Daroux, keeper of the notorious Sausalito poolrooms, interrupted A. J. Treat, of Sausalito, who was speaking for the Walker-Otis bill, to demand of him how it is that at the polls the gamblers of that city invariably defeat the anti-gambling element.
"You will remember, Mr. Daroux," came back Treat, "that at the last general election you and I discussed that question?"
"Yes," was the reply.
"And I asked you why you were in politics?" continued Treat.
"Yes," said Daroux.
"And you told me," insisted Treat, "that you were in politics for principle."
"Yes," admitted the pool seller.
"And I asked you how you spelt it then; and I ask you how you spell it now?"
The crowd that packed the Senate Chamber, even the scores of racetrack touts that had been rushed to Sacramento to give weight to the side of the gamblers, went wild at this. Treat was cheered to the echo. Daroux slunk back into his seat silenced and was not heard from again the whole evening.
 The vote was as follows:
For the bill: Anthony, Bates, Bell, Bills, Birdsall, Black, Boynton, Burnett, Caminetti, Campbell, Cartwright, Curtin, Cutten, Estudillo, Holohan, Hurd, Kennedy, Lewis, Martinelli, McCartney, Miller, Price, Roseberry, Rush, Sanford, Savage, Stetson, Strobridge, Thompson, Walker, Welch, Willis, Wright - 33.
Against the bill: Finn, Hare, Hartman, Leavitt, Reily, Weed, Wolfe - 7.