Even though about a fourth of the 104-member Utah Legislature will be new come the general session later this month, lawmakers are still filing a large number of bills, a review for UtahPolicy.com shows.
Numbers of open bill files provided by the Legislature’s Office of Research and General Counsel shows that as of Thursday 1,113 bills have formally been started by legislative attorneys.
Many of those are “protected,” or by legislative rules secret, and we don’t know what those files contain.
The 45-day general session starts Jan. 28.
Within the first two weeks of the session, bills must be formally introduced. Many of those new bills will be just a short title with no text, which can be filled in anytime before adjournment in early March.
Some legislators make all of their bills public once they open a bill file. Others don’t, keeping controversial bills secret until later in the session.
As of Dec. 31 of last year, 1,050 bill files had been opened.
That compares to the same date in 2017 of 1,168 bill files opened, and 1,034 for the year before on Dec. 31.
So, even though there are many new lawmakers coming into office Jan. 1, 2019 after last November’s election, they are not shy about starting their law-sponsoring careers.
Republican and Democratic legislative leaders have talked for years about doing something about the growing number of bills legislators ask their staff attorneys to draft.
Last session, one legislator reportedly ordered as many as 80 bills, although few were ever really drafted.
Still, legislative attorneys are working hard in the days leading up to the 2019 session keeping up with lawmakers’ bill requests.
Historically, just over 800 bills are written and introduced, with legislators passing around 500 or so each general session.
Also, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert calls one to three special sessions during the interim – when lawmakers aren’t in regular session – which also ads to legislators’ workload during the year.
In November voters approved a state constitutional amendment that will allow majority legislative leaders – with two-thirds approval in both houses – to call their own special sessions – ones without the governor’s consent.
Once in a special session, lawmakers have 30 days to finish their work – although traditionally they do that work in just one or two days.
So, with a large number of bill files opened already for the 2019 general session, it appears the Utah Legislature will continue working hard on hearing, amending, and passing bills over the seven-and-a-half weeks starting later this month.