With next year’s legislative session fast approaching, Utah lawmakers are busy working on hundreds of pieces of potential legislation.
And if sponsoring legislation were a competition, the state’s current winner would be Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, who had personally requested 31 bills as of Friday.
“It takes a bill to make any change you want," the South Jordan Republican said. "If we want to make government smaller, it takes a bill to do it. If we want to improve policy, it takes a bill to do it.”
The ability to track bill requests is a new feature this year, adopted during the past legislative session and originally sponsored by Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton — now Sen.-elect McCay — who at the time described it as “more like a scarlet letter than a badge of courage.”
The move came after some legislative leaders late last year complained about the flood of bill requests, one calling the lack of self-retraint “ridiculous” and another saying lawmakers were “gaming the system.” Earlier this year, the legislative session produced a record 1,359 bill files, up from the previous year (also a record at 1,298).
McCay had the most bill requests — 27 — back in March but was subsequently surpassed by Fillmore and Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, who has requested 29 bills.
But after being asked about his third-place status by The Salt Lake Tribune, McCay’s number quickly rose to 30 requests, placing him in second position.
“I’ll go open some more and call you back,” McCay said.
Utah lawmakers with 20 or more bill requests
• Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan: 31 bills
• Rep. Dan McCay (Sen.-elect), R-Riverton: 30 bills
• Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi: 29 bills
• Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City: 28 bills
• Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy: 27 bills
• Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross: 24 bills
• Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville: 23 bills
• Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo: 23 bills
• Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem: 21 bills
• Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem: 21 bills
• Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan: 20 bills
• Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield: 20 bills
le.utah.gov as of Wednesday, November 21
Fillmore attributes his high bill count to several factors. As a committee chairman, several measures that are functionally sponsored by a group of lawmakers are placed under his name. And many of his bill requests are indicative of topics that he is researching but which may not be formally presented to his colleagues for debate.
"I will probably abandon at least half of them,” Fillmore said.
Among the topics Fillmore is exploring are legal protections for owners of dogs who bite or otherwise injure a trespasser, and a bill or resolution advancing the development of digital driver licenses.
“So many people don’t carry wallets anymore, but you kind of have to if you drive," Fillmore said. “Let’s get a digital version that we can have on our phones that we can show in case we get pulled over.”
Fillmore also played coy about one potentially divisive bill he’s working on, declining to describe its topic or content.
“There is a controversial one that I’m not ready to talk about yet,” he said.
Like Fillmore, Anderegg said he is likely to abandon as many as half of his bill requests. Opening a bill file can “force agencies to the table to negotiate,” Anderegg said, which often ends in his desired result without the need for a new law.
Anderegg is also a committee chairman and said some of his bills are representative of a group effort.
“When all is said and done," he added, “I’ll have 12, maybe 13 bills that I actually run."
Anderegg said his bills are focused on issues related to population growth, such as transportation, land use and affordable housing. One topic he’s working on is requiring that secondary water be metered in an effort to better manage the state’s resources.
He said he’d be the first lawmaker to call for a cap on the number of bills any one legislator can run but was unable to answer when asked what that number should be.
“I don’t know; that’s the thing,” he said. “I want to limit everybody else, but I don’t want to limit me. That’s why we can’t ever get to an agreement on what we’re going to do.”