word for the day: Enroll

en·roll also en·rol   (ěn-rōl’)  

2 : to prepare a final copy of (a bill passed by a legislature) in written or printed form

At the beginning of each legislative day’s session, the presiding oficer calls for bills ordered enrolled. In accordance with G.S. 120-33, “All bills passed by the General Assembly shall be enrolled for ratification under the supervision of the enrolling clerk.” They are then deposited with the Secretary of State.  Under G.S. 8-1 (last amended in 1826), “All statutes, or joint resolutions, passed by the General Assembly may be read in evidence from the printed statute book …”

So what is an enrolled bill, and what is the statute book or statute roll? The term “enrolling” came from the ancient English practice of writing down each act on a roll of parchment, to be signed at the top by the King.  The bill passed by Parliament was memorialized by writing it down, and ratified to show it was a true copy of the original.  According to a 1958 House of Lords publication, in the British Parliament, from where American legislative procedure originated,  prior to 1849 each act “… was written on a parchment roll, which might consist of a single skin, or more frequently of skin sewn to skin, until the roll took on formidable proportions. One of the longest is in fact nearly a quarter of a mile long, and took two men recently a whole day to re-wind … Other misunderstandings arise concerning the time-honoured phrase ‘the Statute Book’. Originally there was a ‘Statute Roll’ – at the end of a medieval Parliament a collection of those Acts of a Public character was made and given the title of the King’s regnal year; each particular Act forming a section, or a chapter, of the complete Statute, so that, e.g. the Vagabonds Act of 1383 became VII Ric. II, c.5.  … the ‘Statute Book’ was originally the Statute Roll.”

While we no longer prepare laws on a parchment roll, the process of preparing the enacted bill is still called “enrolling”. The Secretary of State annually binds all the session laws into large folio called the “statute book”, the printed session laws are copies of the originals of the acts.

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