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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lobbyists and members of the public wait outside the House of Representatives for a chance to take to a legislator during the legislative season on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday, March 10, 2014.
Utah Legislature: Stats show wild rush, big hitters

By the numbers » Legislature passes third highest number of bills, nine of 10 sponsored by GOP.

First Published Mar 24 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 26 2014 01:48 pm

During this year’s Legislature, leaders reported weekly that members were passing far fewer bills than usual. Then the last week arrived, and lawmakers hit the afterburners.

They ended up approving the third most bills ever: 486. Most of those — 57 percent — passed in the last week — and a third of the total on the harried final day. That may raise questions about how much scrutiny the legislation received in the rush.

At a glance

2014 Legislature statistics

Bills passed: 486, third most ever behind 524 in 2013 and 504 in 2011

Bills introduced: 784, highest ever

Percentage of bills passed on the last day: 33 percent (57 percent passed in the last week)

Percentage of passed bills sponsored by Republicans: 89 percent (The GOP holds 82 percent of the seats.)

Number of lawmakers who passed 100 percent of their bills: 15

Number of lawmakers who passed no bills: Nine

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Among other notable statistics emerging from the 2014 Legislature:

» Nine of every 10 bills passed were sponsored by Republicans, showing perhaps how much of a one-party state Utah is. Republicans hold 82 percent of the seats in the Legislature and passed 89 percent of the bills.

» Lawmakers introduced the most bills ever: 784 (two more than the previous record of 782 in 2011). Three of every five bills passed, 62 percent.

» Fifteen lawmakers passed every bill they introduced. Nine failed to pass any, and four introduced no bills.

The numbers come from analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune of legislative records. A batting average for every member can be found online at sltrib.com.

Timing » The Legislature tweaked its procedure this year so that during the first week of its 45-day session, it worked only on base budget bills to give spending more attention. Normal committee work on all other bills was delayed by a week — and caught up only in the frenzied final days.

So "bills moved a little bit more slowly [at first]. But I think you would find almost universal acceptance and recognition that was a good process for the budget this year," House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said on the last day of the session.

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On that last day, the two houses were in session a combined 26 hours. Members passed 162 bills that day — averaging one every 9.6 minutes in each body.

Is that too fast for careful consideration?

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, says no — in part because this year’s Legislature held committee meetings longer into its session than usual, up to the last week.

"When you have more committee hearings, it takes less time on the floor because you have worked out more of the details," he said.

He noted that in many years, most bills considered during the last week have had a hearing only either in the Senate or House. He said more bills went through hearings in both bodies this year.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said what happens in the Capitol is human nature.

"The Legislature is like everyone else. They’re procrastinating and waiting until the last minute, and getting the last deals. It’s just the nature of the organization that a lot of this stuff happens in the last little while."

Number of bills » The record number of bills introduced, 784, comes in an election year, when lawmakers want to show voters they are working hard.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Valentine, R-Orem, said earlier that he suspects the record came because "this particular class of legislators have really been active in trying to look at ways to solve problems in the state."

Another reason so many were introduced, he said, is "our legislative general counsel has been very efficient in getting bills drafted as they have been requested."

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