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Abel v. Eggers

December 31, 1913


Brown & Belford, for Petitioner.

Geo. B. Thatcher, Attorney-General, for Respondent.

By the Court, Talbot, C. J.:

This is an original proceeding in mandamus to compel the respondent, the state controller, to draw his warrant for a claim approved by the state board of examiners for hotel and kindred expenses incurred by the relator in the discharge of his official functions as deputy superintendent of public instruction when absent from the place of his residence. The facts stated in the petition are admitted by written stipulation, and a demurrer has been interposed.

1. It is the duty of the state controller to refuse to draw warrants in cases where payment is not authorized by law, and naturally if there is a great doubt he takes the course which will protect him and the state treasury. On his behalf it is contended that there is no appropriation for the payment of these expenses in the general appropriation act for the years 1913 and 1914. (Stats. 1913, c. 139.) Sections 66 to 70, inclusive, make appropriations “for actual traveling expenses” for each of the five deputy superintendents of public instruction, in amounts varying from $1,000 to $1,500.

Differently from prior appropriation bills, the word “actual” has been inserted in this general appropriation bill ahead of each of the provisions for “traveling expenses” for the governor and attorney-general, for the state superintendent of public instruction, for the deputy superintendents of public instruction in different districts, for district judges, and for the mine inspector and his deputy. It is the contention of respondent that the items for hotel charges are not “actual” traveling expenses under the provisions of the appropriation act, and to

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support this contention reliance is had on the case of State v. LaGrave, 23 Nev. 88. Section 13 of “An act concerning public schools, and repealing certain acts relation thereto,” approved March 20, 1911 (Stats. 1911, c. 133),which was passed long after the decision in that case, and which we have to consider here, provides that: “All claims for the traveling expenses, including the cost of transportation and cost of living, of each deputy superintendent of public instruction while absent from their places of residence, together with the necessary office expenses, shall be paid from the general fund of the state.” (Rev. Laws, 3251.)

These appropriation bills, as indicated by the titles, are passed for the support of the state government, and are not legislative acts changing the substantive or general laws of the state. The civil government of the state is established by the constitution and general statutory provisions, and it is for the support of such government that general appropriation bills are enacted. it is not expected that changes and amendments in the general laws of the state will be made in general appropriation bills, and the life of such acts is only two years.

2. Although failure to appropriate will prevent recovery from the state for traveling expenses, if the legislature in the most explicit terms had designated in the general appropriation bill that the statute providing for the payment of traveling expenses for different officers should be repealed, or should be suspended for two years, such provisions or enactments would be void under section 17, article 4, of the constitution, which provides: “Each law enacted by the legislature shall embrace but one subject, and matter properly connected therewith, which subject shall be briefly expressed in the title; and no law shall be revised or amended by reference to its title only; but, in such case, the act as revised, or section as amended, shall be reenacted and published at length.”

Any provision for the repeal or enactment of a law authorizing payment of the traveling expenses of an officer would not be germane to this act, which is

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entitled “An act making appropriations for the support of the civil government of the State of Nevada for the years 1913 and 1914,” for the title does not indicate a purpose to repeal or amend any such existing law. (State v. Gibson, 30 Nev. 356; State v. Board of County Commissioners of Storey County, 22 Nev. 399; State v. Silver, 9 Nev. 231; Chase v. Rogers, 10 Nev. 253, 21 Am. Rep. 738.)

Any act to suspend or amend one or more acts would not be effective unless the title of the amendatory act were pertinent; and if it were sought to amend two or more acts by one amendatory act, it would not be valid or amend any act to which the title of the amendatory act was not pertinent. (State v. Ah Sam, 15 Nev. 27, 37 Am. Rep. 454; Ex Parte Hewlett, 22 Nev. 333; State v. Commissioners, 22 Nev. 399; State v. Hoadley, 20 Nev. 318.) 3. It must be conceded that the use of the word “actual” in relation to traveling expenses, used in the several sections of the general appropriation bill, if considered alone, affords room for argument that the legislature thus manifested an intent to restrict the purposes for which the appropriation was made. While the words “actual traveling expenses,” considered alone, may give the inference that hotel bills are not to be allowed or paid, the fact that the legislature appropriated the same amount for “actual traveling expenses” as designated in the general appropriation bill at the previous session for “traveling expenses,” raises a doubt or contrary inference that the legislature may have intended to appropriate enough to cover the payment of the hotel bills. If, unlimited or not considered in connection with existing laws, the literal language in appropriation bills were given effect, amounts larger than earned or ...

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