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Utah Legislature: Stats show wild rush, big hitters

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

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With Republicans controlling four of every five seats, they passed nine of every 10 bills — and the lion’s share of major initiatives or bills that require funding, as opposed to simple corrections bills or commemorative resolutions.

Dabakis said, "The fact is that while we pretend there is bipartisanship, unless the people in November [elections] speak, we’ll continue to have a one-party state. As [forced-to-resign former GOP Attorney General] John Swallow shows, we need a two-party state, we need a system that has checks and balances."

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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Heavy hitters » Fifteen legislators passed every bill they introduced. But not all bills are created equally, and some of those 100 percenters still passed far more bills than others.

For example, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, Senate budget chairman, went 17-for-17 and has extra say about what projects and bills receive funding. The House budget chairman, Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, went 12-for-12.

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, went 13-for-13, and the well-liked leader did it even after being hospitalized for a heart attack on the next-to-last day of the session.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, went 12-for-12 while leading the House investigation into former Attorney General John Swallow, and while often chairing the House while other leaders were away in meetings or in budget negotiations.

At the lighter end of the 100 percenters is retiring Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City, who passed the one bill she introduced — a resolution designating "Call Your Military Buddy Day."

Three other lawmakers — Reps. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna; John Mathis, R-Vernal; and Dan McCay, R-Riverton — went two-for-two with bills. They included a resolution by Duckworth recognizing a sister-city relationship between Magna and Yuzawa, Japan.

The person who passed the most bills in the Legislature was Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who went 19-for-26. He impressed Niederhauser. "A lot of the bills he passed were not easy, including SB54," a compromise between political parties and the Count My Vote initiative supporters.

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It allowed the current caucus-convention system to continue, but lets candidates bypass it and get on the primary ballot if they collect enough signatures.

Other 100 percenters include Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, eight bills; Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, six bills; Rep. Brad Last, R-St. George, and Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, five bills each; Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, and Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, four bills; and Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, three bills.

Non-hitters » Nine lawmakers did not pass any bills. That does not mean they are not powerful.

House Speaker Lockhart and Senate President Niederhauser are two of them, and are arguably the Legislature’s two most powerful members, who do not run many bills by tradition.

Two other members also chose not to introduce any bills: freshman Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, and four-term Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, who was among the founders of the seeking-less-government Patrick Henry Caucus.

Five other House members attempted bills, but did not pass any: Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, Lynn Hemingway, D-Millcreek, Jerry Anderson, R-Price, Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, and Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville.

The two legislators who had the highest number of failed bills often pushed less-than-popular ethics reform bills.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, had 14 fail, the most of anyone, but passed six. Several had sought ethics reforms including imposing limits on campaigns donations, and he also sought liquor law reform, including eliminating the "Zion Curtain."

Right behind him in frustration was retiring Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, who had 13 bills fail but passed five. One was intended to allow legislators to abstain when they have a conflict of interest (they now must vote). Ironically, the Rules Committee refused to vote on it, citing an obscure rule that its hearing had lasted too long.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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