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.
While the newspaper's analysis does show overall how well one house, or party, or caucus may fare each session, legislators are quick to say the report card doesn't give all the details. Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, for example, was 0-for-5 this year — didn't pass a single measure. But he's upset over only one bill — which would have been debated and probably passed if the Senate and House hadn't adjourned an hour early last Thursday night.
"I was just livid," said Mascaro. "It was a bill the governor wanted that would raise the fine for parking in a handicapped zone, the money going to help get disabled people hired more quickly by the state."
And legislators often complain their bills are killed in favor of another lawmaker's similar proposal.
For example, a number of Democratic legislators (with a few Republicans) introduced so-called "ethics reform" bills this past session. But GOP leaders in the House and Senate decided that they would push the ethics issue — and they introduced and passed the four main ethics bills. Of course, all the other ethics bills, whether sponsored by Democrats or Republicans, died.
Sometimes, a rank-and-file member may get run over by leadership's desires. Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, ran the main liquor reform bill for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. But after Huntsman, Hughes and others worked out an acceptable compromise, Senate leaders demanded that one of their own sponsor the main alcohol bill.
So Hughes, who ended up 5-for-10 on his bills, saw one of his main bills die in favor of another's.
Sixteen legislators passed all of the bills they introduced — but four of them introduced only one bill each, and another three introduced only two each. (The only three Democrats on the list introduced very few bills. Rep. Jim Gowans, D-Tooele, introduced two; and Reps. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, and Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, had one each.)
Leading the pack among 100 percenters was Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, who passed all eight of his bills, followed closely by Reps. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy, and Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork, who had seven each; and Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, who had six.
Killpack is the Senate majority leader and Garn is the House majority leader. Such internal power historically carries with it certain successes. Both Kiser and Morley have been successful bill-passers in previous newspaper studies.
"I passed all my bills for the last three years," said Garn, and only this year was he in leadership. He added: "I've been up there" in the Legislature "for so long that if you don't know by now how to get bills through — well, you probably shouldn't be up there." His success is more due to experience than to his leadership position, he said.
The typical legislator passed four bills this year. But some passed many more than that.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, passed 18 bills this year (out of the 21 he introduced), the most of any legislator. Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, passed 15 (out of 17 introduced); Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, passed 13 (out of 15 introduced); and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, passed 12 (of 17 introduced).
Seven legislators had the frustration of not managing to pass any bill.
Those include Hansen at 0-for-10 and Mascaro at 0-for-5.
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Other "zeros" included: Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley (five bills); Reps. Laura Black and Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake (three bills each); and Rep. Trisha Beck, D-Sandy, and Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, (one bill each).
Mascaro, who was also involved in last summer's ethics complaint controversy — demanding ethics improvements — doesn't believe his failures in the 2009 session had anything to do with that. On the contrary, like several other representatives involved in that mess last summer, Mascaro told the newspaper he believes he was treated fairly by House GOP leaders and conservatives this session.
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