private Bill

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Private Bill

Legislation that benefits an individual or a locality. Also called special legislation or a private act.

Many state constitutions prohibit the enactment of private bills or acts when a general law could apply. The prohibition of private bills, now more commonly known as special laws, applies to legislation that affects local governments or private individuals. Despite this constitutional language, private bills remain a part of the U.S. legislative process.

The constitutional disfavor of private bills is based on several concerns. The enactment of special legislation undermines the idea that laws apply to all persons in a state. The perception of favoritism reduces the credibility of the legislative process. The reality of special legislation is that the legislature fails to establish responsible and uniform statewide regulation of local government units and creates preferential and prejudicial discrimination between communities. Private bills also use legislative time and energy in small amounts, leaving the legislature less able to deal with general legislative business. Nevertheless, special legislative treatment of special problems is sometimes warranted.

Legislatures can evade the constitutional provisions banning private bills by drafting laws that apply to the entire state, at least on their face. For example, a special bill for one local unit of government or person can be drawn so that it appears to apply to all units or persons meeting specific criteria. The criteria actually limit its applicability to the one community or person the sponsors intend to affect. Population is the most common "bogus" criterion since it is easy to use. Thus, a law that applies only to "a county with a population of more than 50,000 and between 350,000 and 400,000 acres" appears on its face to apply generally to all counties in the state that match the criteria. This type of legislative drafting hides special legislation and makes it appear to be general.

Courts will uphold special legislation if the classifications in the act are "open," meaning that other units of government or individuals will come under the law if at any time they meet the criteria in the law. In the example above, the population of a county given in the law was 50,000. If another county reaches that level of population and has the same amount of acreage, it will fall under the legislation, thus making the classification open. If the class is fixed by the facts as of some point in time, the class is closed, and is stripped of the presumption that it is an honest classification related to a legitimate legislative purpose. The class is held to be descriptive of the target community or person and makes the legislation an invalid private bill.

Legislatures can limit the number of private bills either by examining them more critically or adopting statewide legislation that gives local units adequate powers to solve issues themselves, eliminating the need for private bills.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

private Bill

in the constitutional law of the UK, a Bill that affects a private interest specially and is therefore different from a PUBLIC BILL. They are initiated by petition of persons outside Parliament, like local authorities or, in the past, railway companies. The main feature of the special standing orders that govern its passage are that the bill is sent to a select committee that will hear objectors providing they have LOCUS STANDI. See HYBRID BILL.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
The private bill is the council's attempt to plug a loophole allowing pedlars to beat Liverpool's street trading rules via an 1871 law allowing them to move from town to town.
Few private bills ever make it on to the Statute Book, but with the backing of MPs yesterday, Mr Jones is expecting to receive Royal Assent in the coming weeks.
There are Government Bills (starting at the number 1), Private Members Public Bills (starting at number 201) and Private Bills (starting at Pr 1).
Bronfman, the sponsor of a private bill dealing with such issues, expressed optimism over the statements made by the chief rabbi, explaining there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The news follows Friday's 260-vote victory in the Commons for Labour MP Mike Foster's private Bill to ban hunting with dogs.
City officials are also exploring the option of paying by credit card and at private bill payment stores in the future, Lhota said in an interview.
It is particularly true of a private bill moved by members in their personal capacity.
LAHORE -- A private bill seeking raise in the salary of Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) was approved by the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday in just 24 hours.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Punjab Assembly approved a private bill seeking raise in the salaries and privileges of Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) within just 24 hours.
Support the private bill for the creation of the province, he added Dogar was of the view that the PML-N was politicking on the issue by seeking the restoration of the Bahawalpur province.
The private Bill was moved by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.
Prior to adjournment, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon attended the Legislative Assembly to give Royal Assent to 19 government bills and one private bill. Among these were Bill 2, the Great Bear Rainforest (Forest Management) Act, which protects most of the globe's largest intact temperate rainforest on British Columbia's central coast from logging, and Bill 23, the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, which requires all public post-secondary institutions to establish sexual misconduct policies within one year.