Stop the Clock

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Uncategorized

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

In 1866, as Surrogate of New York County, Gideon John Tucker wrote this famous statement in a decision on a legal malpractice claim against a deceased lawyer’s estate. (That quote is often mistakenly credited to Mark Twain.) He spoke from experience, having served as a state assemblyman in Albany before becoming Manhattan’s Surrogate. Tucker probably knew more than life, liberty, and property were at stake: even time itself is at the peril of legislators.

When Tucker voted on bills in the Assembly Chamber in New York’s state capitol, President Abraham Lincoln served as our nation’s president. And, about six and one-half scores – 130 years – later, I too cast votes in the same chamber as Tucker had done on behalf of his constituents when I served as a New York State Assemblyman. While many things had changed over time, I, too, can attest that nothing is safe while the Legislature is in session. One of the most pretentious acts I have ever experienced was the legislative leaders believing they had the power to stop the clock.

Stopping or freezing the clock is a controversial parliamentary act where the Legislature literally or notionally stops the clock or turns back its hands. This practice has been done to meet constitutional or statutory deadlines. If a required vote doesn’t occur by the required time, the legislators backdate the approval to meet the law. Did you know that your elected officials can freeze time?

Our elected officials did not invent the practice of freezing time. In the early days of Rome, winter’s cold, dormant days were deemed unworthy of even being counted. I guess it was just too cold even to count the days, so they considered the winter “monthless.” Time was picked up again when the frost led to a new season worthy of counting. It wasn’t until 713 BC that January and February were added to the Roman calendar.

Today, time continues. We begin the month of February. Although our state legislature is in session, our elected officials probably will not have the audacity to stop the clock from ticking this day (they may try to do so in a few weeks to meet the April 1st state budget deadline). We can proceed through the shortest month.

This Sunday, February 4th, we invite you to a place where you are always safe, far away from the whims of the Legislature. Remember, the clock never stops when we are given the promise of eternal life. Please join us for worship at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at 9:30 AM.

Blessings, Pastor Marc