The closest votes of the 2016 Legislature

Two of the session’s closest Senate votes came 45 minutes apart, voting on the same bill, within an hour of adjournment, with opposite results.

The Utah Legislature loves consensus. Bills seldom pass on party-line votes. Instead, votes routinely pass with both Republicans and Democrats on board, producing an average majority size of 93% (House) and 96% (Senate).

But averages have exceptions, and there were some doozies in the 2016 Legislature. Let’s start in the House. With 75 Representatives, it takes 38 votes to pass. Two issues were decided by a single vote, both eking out passage on a 38-37 decision. Unsurprisingly, they were both issues that attracted lots of coverage: HB221, which requires parents opting out of vaccinations for their school-age children to first watch an educational video, and HJR18, which calls for a Constitutional convention to consider term limits for the US Congress.

Here’s the full list of House floor votes that were decided by a margin of 10% (7.5 votes) or fewer:

Bill Vote type Ayes-Nays-Absent Vote margin
HB0221S10 House/ passed 3rd reading 38-37-0 1
HJR018 House/ passed 3rd reading 38-37-0 1
SB0045S03 House/ passed 3rd reading 39-35-1 4
HB0221S10 House/ substituted from # 6 to # 8 39-35-1 4
SB0251S03 House/ floor amendment # 1 40-35-0 5
SJR002 House/ passed 3rd reading 39-34-2 5
SB0086 House/ passed 3rd reading 39-33-3 6
HB0011S02 House/ failed 32-38-5 6
HB0091 House/ failed 34-40-1 6
HB0116S03 House/ failed 33-39-3 6
SB0045S03 House/ failed 32-39-4 7
SB0115S04 House/ failed 33-40-2 7
HB0220S01 House/ passed 3rd reading 41-33-1 8
HJR008 House/ passed 3rd reading 41-33-1 8

Now let’s go the Senate. With 29 Senators, it takes 15 votes to pass. The closest vote wasn’t a 15-14 vote, though–rather, it was a 13-13 vote, with 3 absent, rejecting HB348 at 11:02pm on March 10–only 58 minutes before the session’s constitutionally-mandated adjournment. 45 minutes later, HB348 came back for reconsideration and passed into law on a 15-12-2 vote, just 13 minutes before the midnight deadline. Yes, that means two of the session’s closest Senate votes came 45 minutes apart, voting on the same bill, within an hour of adjournment, with opposite results.

After that lone 13-13 tie, the next-closest vote was a failed 14-15 vote on SB61, which would have eliminated indoor smoking rooms at Utah airports.

This table lists all Senate votes decided by a margin of less than 10%–that is, 2.9 votes or fewer.

Bill Vote type Ayes-Nays-Absent Vote margin
HB0348S02 Senate/ failed 13-13-3 0
SB0061 Senate/ failed 14-15-0 1
SB0073S03 Senate/ passed 2nd reading 15-13-1 2
SB0125S01 Senate/ failed 13-11-5 2
SB0180 Senate/ failed 13-15-1 2
HB0223S03 Senate/ failed 13-11-5 2
SB0189 Senate/ passed 3rd reading 15-12-2 3
HB0041 Senate/ failed 11-14-4 3
HB0348S02 Senate/ passed 2nd & 3rd readings/ suspension 15-12-2 3
HB0431 Senate/ passed 2nd & 3rd readings/ suspension 15-12-2 3

Though most votes pass with near unanimity, legislators throw enough of these nailbiters out there to keep things interesting.

You can find longer tables, as well as tables for past years, at my closest floor votes page.

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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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