Utah lawmakers working overtime as end of session looms

Posted at 10:13 PM, Mar 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-06 00:13:52-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah lawmakers now have one week to get the state's business done, and so far they still have hundreds of bills to pass.

Wednesday night they worked overtime until 10 p.m.

It's six weeks into the legislative session, and lawmakers have introduced 761 bills, which is an all-time high in the last decade. However, only 163 bills have been passed. Utah hasn't hit that low since 2007. Last year at this point, 263 bills made it through.

Sen. John Valentine, R-District 14, spoke about the issue.

"There's a couple of factors that affect these particular type of numbers, one of them and probably the most important one is we took a full week of full base budgeting,” he said.

Valentine said the legislature started the state's budgets from scratch, something they haven't done before and a task that took them an entire week. Then add big ticket bills.

"We have spent a significant amount of time in studying a couple of big, big issues that's taken us off the floor, some of those issues include the possibility of Medicaid expansion and the idea of changing the paradigm of changing our school system with more technology," Valentine said.

Both the Senate and House are working late hours as we near the end of the legislative session, which is next Thursday at midnight, and while some lawmakers tell FOX 13 News it feels slower than usual, House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-District 64, said the overtime is normal.

"Towards the end of the session we sometimes meet in the evening just to do bills on the calendar, probably from 7 until about 10 just to do the normal," she said.

"To constituency that's looking for a particular bill when it doesn't pass it's a disaster, but for a big picture I think we are going to have a very successful session," Valentine said.

Lawmakers said, just like with any session, there's always a sense of urgency. Everyone is trying to hustle to get their bills heard and passed. Ultimately, there will be hundreds of bills that never reach the House or Senate floors for debate.