Which legislators run the most bills?

Far and away, the most active sponsor of bills in the Utah legislature is Senator Curt Bramble.

A couple weeks ago, I posted information about which legislators skip the most votes. Voting is an important part of a legislator’s job, but it’s certainly not the only part. Much of a legislator’s job occurs behind the scenes. It’s no coincidence that the list of “most absent” legislators included the Speaker of the House (Becky Lockhart), the House budget chair (Mel Brown), the Senate budget chair (Lyle Hillyard), and other legislators with important responsibilities.

Today, let’s look at another duty legislators have: Sponsoring bills. If there is demand for a policy change, it will not happen unless some legislator steps up to write the bill and sponsor it through the legislative process. There is wide variation in bill sponsorship activity.

The most active bill sponsors

Far and away, the most active sponsor of bills in the Utah legislature is Senator Curt Bramble. In 2011, he sponsored (excluding “floor sponsored”) 34 bills, 23 of which passed. No other legislator came close. In part, he is so busy because other legislators sometimes look to him to create compromise bills in difficult policy areas.

There’s a big gap between Sen. Bramble and other legislators. The table below shows the 5 legislators who introduced the most bills in 2011 (regardless of how many of their bills passed).

Legislator # introduced # passed
Sen. Curt Bramble 34 23
Rep. Chris Herrod 22 3
Sen. Stuart Adams 19 16
Sen. Steve Urquhart 19 12
Sen. Ben McAdams 19 11

Looking at things from a different angle, the table below lists the legislators who passed the most bills (regardless of how many they introduced).

Legislator # introduced # passed
Sen. Curt Bramble 34 25
Sen. Stuart Adams 19 16
Sen. Lyle Hillyard 17 16
Sen. Steve Urquhart 19 12
Sen. John Valentine 14 12

The least active bill sponsors

Looking at the tables above, it seems that the most active bill sponsors tend to be current and former members of leadership, with a few others thrown in. Not surprisingly, the least active bill sponsors tend to be freshmen legislators who are still getting the hang of things.

There is one notable exception: The Speaker, Becky Lockhart. It’s common for Speakers (both in Utah and in Congress) to refrain from sponsoring bills. Likewise, Senate President Michael Waddoups sponsored only one bill (which passed).

Aside from Speaker Lockhart, there were eleven legislators who did not pass a single bill: Representatives Biskupski, Briscoe, Butterfield, Fisher, Moss, Nielson, Richardson, Romero, Sagers, Sanpei, and Wheatley. All but Rep. Sanpei introduced a bill, but none had a bill pass.

Complete data

You can find data for every legislator by clicking here.

Why it matters

Honestly, it probably doesn’t matter that much. Still, data guys like me find this interesting.

What these statistics show is that there are many ways that legislators participate in the legislative session. Utah’s constitution forces the legislature to complete all its work in only 7 weeks each year. Some legislators sponsor few bills and hold no leadership positions, enabling them to attend every vote without much difficulty. Other legislators sponsor many bills or hold important leadership positions, forcing them to leave the floor sometimes in order to fulfill their other duties.

Consider this: The 5 legislators with the best attendance record in floor votes sponsored a combined 18 bills, 8 of which passed. That’s an average of 3.6 bills introduced per legislator, with 1.6 passing. By contrast, Sen. Bramble singlehandedly introduced almost twice as many bills (34), passing almost three times as many (23). Perhaps it’s not surprising that he had the fifth-worst attendance in floor votes, following a Senator with health issues (Sen. Buttars) and three with important leadership and budget duties (Speaker Lockhart, Rep. Mel Brown, Sen. Hillyard).

(Updated Jan 9, 2012 with some minor corrections to the number of bills passed by each legislator. When I say a bill “passed,” I mean it was enrolled. That is, it passed both chambers. Whether the governor signed or vetoed the bill is a separate matter that I don’t consider here.)

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate 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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