Though there were 87 more bills introduced in 2015 than 2008 overall, there were 84 fewer introductions within the first two weeks.
By the time the Utah Legislature concluded its seven-week General Session last Thursday, legislators had passed 528 bills (including resolutions). I’ve heard people call that a record. It might be. My data go back only to 2007, and it’s clearly a record since then. As you can see in the chart below, this year’s 528 bills and resolutions just barely edge out the 524 enacted two years ago.
Of course, legislators had plenty of additional ideas that didn’t get enacted. Though only 528 items passed, 831 were introduced for consideration. Only 3% of these were actually voted down on the floor. Another 33% never came to a final floor vote–either because they died in committee, or (more often) because they weren’t prioritized for a floor vote before the session ended.
The Utah Constitution limits the Legislature to 45 calendar days of activity. Because legislators do not convene on weekends, they have 33 legislative days in practice. Passing 528 bills in 33 days implies a rate of 16 bills per day.
Legislators didn’t consider 16 bills per day, though. Instead, most bills piled up and were considered rapidly in the session’s final days. In fact, 277 of this year’s enacted bills (that’s 52% of 528) received their final approval during the session’s final week. That’s an incredible amount of legislation to consider in only four days, and it reflects the culmination of a trend toward procrastination. As the next chart shows, Utah’s lawmakers have considered more and more bills during the final week of each year’s General Session.
So why do Utah legislators wait until the final week to approve so many bills? Legislators have themselves to blame for this backlog. Up until around 2008, legislators were in the habit of introducing their bills very early in the legislative session, so that bills had plenty of time to work their way through the legislative process. But from 2009-2011, legislators shifted toward introducing their bills later in the session.
You can see this change in the next chart. In 2008, 551 bills (74% of 744 total) were introduced during the first two weeks of the session. In 2015, only 467 bills (56% of 831 total) were introduced within the first two weeks. Though there were 87 more bills introduced in 2015 than 2008 overall, there were 84 fewer introductions within the first two weeks.
When you combine this increased procrastination with the aggregate rise in bills–831 introductions!–you’ve got a recipe for a very busy seventh week.
Visit http://adambrown.info/p/research/utah_legislature/bills for additional statistics like those reported here.