Something changed around 2009 or 2010 that led legislators to introduce their bills later and, as a result, process them more quickly.
In 2013, the Utah Legislature passed more bills than it’s passed since I started keeping track (in 2007). A total of 748 bills were introduced, of which 581 made it to a floor vote, of which 524 were passed out of the Legislature. (You can find data for previous years here.)
The Utah Constitution limits the Legislature to a 45-day session. Weekends are included in the count, even though the Legislature doesn’t meet on weekends. In practice, the Legislature handles all its business in 33 working days.
Think about that: 33 days to handle 581 bills. That means the Legislature has very little time to devote to each bill. It also means constituents have very little time to weigh in on bills between their introduction and final passage.
When were bills introduced in 2013?
In 2013, only 39% of bills were introduced within the first week of the seven-week session. That’s a slight increase from 2011’s low (35%), but still lower than was common prior to 2009 (53% in 2007, 55% in 2008).
The flip side is that more bills are introduced in the final two weeks of the session, what Rep. Powell has termed the “scary session.” In 2013, 23% of bills were not introduced until the final two weeks. That’s marginally lower than 2011’s high (24%), but higher than was common prior to 2009 (4% in 2007, 4% in 2008).
How quickly were bills passed?
If bills are introduced later in the session, there will naturally be less time between introduction and final passage. In 2013, a typical bill aged 14 days between introduction and its first floor vote, and 24 days between introduction and final passage. These numbers were similar to those seen in 2011 and 2012, but smaller than was typical for 2007 and 2008.
I wrote last year that bills were being introduced later and passed faster in 2011-2012 than in previous years. What we saw in 2013 was that those trends did not deepen, but they didn’t reverse either. Something changed around 2009 or 2010 that led legislators to introduce their bills later and, as a result, process them more quickly. Whatever it was that changed was apparently a one-time shock, since the change appears to have leveled off.
I have some ideas about what happened in 2009-2010 that caused this one-time shock, but since I don’t have data available to back them up, I won’t provide elaborate here.
On my personal website, you can see more detailed information about when bills were introduced each year and how quickly were passed.