Over a 45-day session, Utah lawmakers are tasked with looking over 700-plus bills that are proposed. About 500-plus bills are passed. It's obvious that in that short time, Utah's lawmakers cannot digest all the information thrown at them in a month and a half. Utah's Legislature needs to reduce the number of bills that make it to the floor, perhaps even initiate a cap on the number of bills that get heard.
A cap would lead lawmakers toward spending their valuable time on bills that are of the most importance. One positive of a cap could be a reduction of silly, "message" bills that exemplify the latest fad in political buffoonery, usually of the right-wing variety. However, that may require a discipline as yet unknown to some legislators.
However, there needs be more opportunity for lawmakers to better understand the bills. Some have called for a longer session, but we like the 45-day "citizen legislator" body. It's a good civics lesson to watch public servants devote a specific time period to deal with state issues and meet a deadline to do that.
The problem is the volume of bills, not the duration of the session.
A bit of news last week underscores how overwhelmed lawmakers are with the avalanche of bills. It was reported that roughly a dozen lawmakers have created a political action committee where they pooled their own money to hire recent college graduates, or college students, to research and monitor legislation. Their duties involved querying interest groups on what they thought of legislation and relaying the information gathered to the lawmakers.
According to news reports, the PAC -- which will not be around next year -- spent between $3,000 and $4,000. Unfortunately, it's also been reported that close to $2,000 of that money was solicited while the Utah Legislature was in session, which may be a violation of the law.
There are many ways to gather information. A lawmaker can call interested constituents, who will talk a lot without charging a fee. But the PAC, misguided as it may be, is clear evidence that the number of bills needs to be trimmed. Legislators should do that.