Some members of the Utah House and Senate are living up to the term “lawmaker,” requesting dozens of potential bills eight months ahead of the 2019 session.
On Friday, state senators had collectively requested 73 bills, led by South Jordan Republican Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, with 15 requests. And, in the House, representatives collectively requested 207 bill files, with Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, personally requesting 27.
McCay declined to comment Friday. But he tweeted Thursday that the volume of his bill requests was due in part to a desire to repeal existing laws.
The numbers are drawn from a new feature on the state’s legislative website, which tracks and publicly displays the number of bill requests for each individual legislator. The decision to post that data online was made during the most recent legislative session amid perennial concerns of a backlog in the drafting process, caused by an ever-increasing number of requests.
“Legislators who flood staff with drafting requests for bills they never intend to pursue can cause genuine problems for their colleagues,” said Adam Brown, a political science professor at Brigham Young University. “This transparency about the number of bills will help prevent that problem.”
Lawmakers also routinely request what are known as “boxcars,” empty or loosely defined bills on a general topic that can be filled in later with specific language once the 45-day session approaches or is underway.
This year’s changes have narrowed lawmakers’ ability to open boxcars, with a requirement for more information on the intent of legislation to start the drafting process, according to Brent Palmer, a policy analyst with Utah’s Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
“We need to have enough drafting instruction to actually open up the bill file,” Palmer said.
This Op-ed was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune by Benjamin Wood. If you want to view the full Op-ed, click here.