GOP powered Utah's 2009 session

Its bills pass; Demos' mostly don't

By Lee Davidson and Bob Bernick Jr.

Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 23 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

If passing bills in the Utah Legislature were scored like a baseball game, Republicans beat Democrats 10-1 this year They sponsored 10 of every 11 bills that passed both houses.

That shows how much of a one-party state Utah now may be (after a similar 9-1 beating in 2008), and how it went even a bit more in that direction in this year's Legislature. Republicans outnumber Democrats 74-30 in the Legislature and shellacked them in almost every way imaginable, including:

Republicans passed 71 percent of the bills they introduced (up from 62 percent last year). That was more than double the success rate of Democrats, who managed to pass only 32 percent of the bills they filed (down from 42 percent last year).

Of the legislators who managed to pass 100 percent of the bills they introduced personally, 13 of the 16 were Republicans.

Of the legislators who failed to pass any bill this year, six of the seven were Democrats.

That frustration for Democrats came while most bills were sailing through the Legislature without much problem. In fact, two-thirds of all legislation introduced this year passed — or 453 of 576 bills to be exact (not counting blank placeholder bills, called "boxcars," introduced without text).

That may raise questions about how much scrutiny bills receive in the Legislature's quick 45-day session — one of the shortest sessions among the states — especially as Republicans pass the lion's share of what their party colleagues introduce.

"This was the most oppressive session I've seen as far as Republicans killing Democrats' bills," said Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, a 10-year veteran. He personally introduced 10 bills, and passed none (the worst record in the Legislature). He said that was retribution for ethics complaints he made last summer against two GOP House members.

"I had one bill that was approved by an interim committee," said Hansen. "It passed the House the first week of the session and was held in Senate Rules for the rest of the session. There is no excuse for that — a bill that was agreed upon by Republicans and Democrats on that interim committee last year."

He noted that House Democrats passed only 23 bills of the 453 passed by the full Legislature. "We may be only 30 percent of the (House) body, but we deserve better than this — and you can't say that we didn't have at least some good ideas — look at my committee bill that died."

But House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, R-Layton, said Republicans "did not single out any Democratic bills to kill them. We were very fair. We included Democratic bills — by their proportion (of House membership) — in our priority lists sent to the Senate (for its action). Maybe the Senate (GOP leaders) took some of their bills off" the priority list, but at least they were sent over, said Garn.

The Deseret News has done its "legislative report card" since the early 1990s. And one trend is clear: Democrats are doing worse in passing their bills than they did years ago. For example, one year in the 1990s, House Democrats passed nearly as many of their bills as did House Republicans.

But in 2009 that slipped again. House Republicans passed 68 percent of the bills they introduced; House Democrats passed only 30 percent. Senate Democrats did slightly better, with a 36 percent success rate. But Senate Republicans passed 77 percent.

Of all passed bills this year, 55 percent come from House Republicans; 35 percent from Senate Republicans; just 5 percent from House Democrats; and only 4 percent from Senate Democrats.

And the poor success rates for Democrats came in a Legislature that even their own leaders said seemed to be especially cooperative and accommodating.

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