How many bills were ready on day one?

Legislators may be showing an increased willingness to run legislation that has not been subject to a thorough vetting during the interim months.

The Utah legislature opened its 2012 general session today. From a quick count, it appears that 211 bills were introduced this morning. Introduction is the first step toward passage, although many of those bills will ultimately fail. Let’s compare the 211 bills introduced today to the first-day numbers from the past few years.

Year Bills introduced on first day of session Total bills introduced in session Percent of bills introduced on first day
2007 292 733 39.8%
2008 328 744 44.1%
2009 276 800 34.5%
2010 226 713 31.7%
2011 191 782 24.4%
2012 211

Take a close look at the right-hand column. It tells you what percentage of bills were ready to go on day one of the session. From 2008 through 2011, there was a striking shift. In the first two years shown here (2007 and 2008), 40-44% of the session’s bills were introduced on day one. From 2009 through 2011 that percentage fell, until only 24.4% of bills were introduced on the first day of the 2011 session.

I’m only working with 5 data points here, so I don’t want to make too hasty a conclusion. Still, we might be witnessing an important shift. Legislators may be showing an increased willingness to run legislation that has not been subject to a thorough vetting during the interim months.

There are, of course, exceptions. Prior to the 2011 session, Stephen Sandstrom spent months vetting his immigration enforcement bill. Whether you liked his bill or not, you can’t say he didn’t spend lots of time working on it. Contrast that with certain other bills considered in 2011 (ahem) that passed with far less time for public scrutiny.

So what do we make of the 211 bills introduced today? Let’s assume that the total number of bills introduced this session will be somewhere between 713 and 800. These numbers seem reasonable if you look at the table above. In that case, then today’s 211 bills will represent between 26.4% and 30.0% of all bills that will be introduced in 2012. That’s better than what we saw in the 2011 session, but still worse than the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 sessions.

An updated version of this post, written after the 2012 session concluded, can be found here.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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One Response to How many bills were ready on day one?

  1. Sue Connor says:

    Nice. interesting stuff.

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