The Origins of Legislative Drafting in Maryland

 

The Maryland Legislature, as an assembly of freemen, first convened in 1635, less than one year after the landing of the first settlers from England who had established the Maryland colony at St. Mary’s.  With its nearly immediate claim of the legislative prerogative, the nascent legislature created a role it has now continued for over 375 years, through both the colonial period and for three and one-third centuries of statehood.

 

The privilege, if not right, of a legislative body – that is, a group of individuals who collectively has the power to legislate – has been traditionally expressed through the drafting, introduction, consideration, and passage of legislative bills.  A legislative “bill” is a draft of an act of the Legislature before it becomes a law; [it is] a proposed or projected law” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition).  But how did the concept of a bill develop?

 

The device of legislative “bills” originated in the British Parliament, which has been cited as the “mother of parliaments” with respect to legislative bodies established in nations that share the English tradition.  The Parliament of England, with over 800 years of history, had evolved long before the Maryland colony was ever established.  Many of the procedures and processes that were in place in England when the Maryland settlement was established in 1634 were carried forward in the new colony, including the use of documents known as “bills” that were intended to become the law.