What was the "Bone Bill" of the 1920's and 30's about? Did it have something to do with power production?

I'd also like to know about the Bill's history and significance.

2 Answers 2


Yes, this bill sure did have something to do with power production.

Homer T. Bone, once a Socialist, a Republican, and a member of several minor parties, was a Tacoma lawyer and a longtime advocate of public power; that is, power companies owned by the government rather than private investors. As a young member of the Washington House of Representatives in the early 1920s, Bone introduced a power bill—the Bone Bill—which came to bear his name. The plan would allow city-owned power companies to provide power outside the city limits. It aroused heated opposition from private companies and was turned down several times both by legislatures and by voters. Bone continued the fight even as his political career extended to a seat in the U.S. Senate. Finally in the midst of New Deal legislation, Washington voters approved the Bone Bill as a referendum in 1930. Its passage meant that public power companies could compete with private companies. Taking effect just when several great public projects, like the Grand Coulee Dam, were getting started, it enabled public power companies to prepare to use the vast amount of power that would soon be available.

Bone remained a liberal supporter of the New Deal until he was appointed a federal judge.

  1. [Homer T. Bone] finally won his state House seat in 1922 as a Farmer-Labor candidate, though his district was strongly conservative. He immediately submitted the "Bone Bill," which would give municipal electrical utilities -- such as Seattle’s and Tacoma’s -- the power to sell their service beyond the city limits. The two-month session, one of the stormier in legislative history, escalated the simmering public vs. private power battle and catapulted Bone into the political spotlight. "The power lobbyists were as thick as bees around a hive," Bone recalled. The Bone Bill did not pass until 1933. HistoryLink.org Emphasis added

  2. . . . legislative battle lines were formed around the idea that a municipal utility could sell power to utilities located outside its city limits. The idea was proposed in 1923 by a first-term state legislator from Tacoma named Homer T. Bone, who supported the concept of publicly owned power systems. The bill started one of the most bitter fights the legislature had ever witnessed.

The private utility interests flooded the legislature with printed propaganda and lobbyists and made sure the bill was defeated. Then, to counter the Bone Bill, the House Speaker proposed a law that would levy punitive taxes against any municipal light system that sold power outside its city limits. The state Legislature passed a bill to place such a referendum before state voters in the general election of 1924. Snopud

  1. Homer T. Bone was an interesting character in Washington State political history. In 1924 Bone had been one of only three Farmer-Labor Party members of the State House. His bill had proposed that municipal utilities could sell their power beyond their borders. It sparked an emotional private/public sector debate. Hill had made his support of the bill an important part of his campaign. The Republicans used his support as proof he was a dangerous, radical socialist. Ungovernor

  • Hey, that didn't really answer my question. Besides, it's just a quote.
    – user22041
    Oct 27, 2016 at 17:05
  • 3
    You asked what the Bone Bill was - the bold portion explains the Bone Bill. It even explains the relationship to power production. What do you need beyond the quote and the source?
    – MCW
    Oct 27, 2016 at 17:17
  • Mark Wallace, I think ggg wanted to know about the history of the Bone Bill to. See below. Oct 27, 2016 at 21:30
  • I think what matters is during the 1930's and upon the onset of World War 2 creating a "national grid" was a war aim for the United States (see Lyndon Johnson and rural electrification in the 1960s.) Oct 27, 2016 at 21:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.