ANALYSIS: It's 'just' a bill – 92,000 of 'em

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/21/2013

 From Boise to Boston, next year’s lawmakers could craft more than 92,000 bills in their state capitals and in the U.S. Congress. With 83 percent of elected officials on ballots in November 2014 the activity at capitals across the country during the next year is expected be brisk.

According to StateNet, there will be a dip from 2013 to 2014 in the number of bills introduced at state capitals and Congress. But still, that’s nearly 100,000 pieces of legislation.

Fewer bills anticipated for next year can be partly attributed to four states that meet only during odd-numbered years – Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas.

Once the new year starts, three states will be churning out more bills than any other state. New Jersey lawmakers are expected to offer 5,650 bills during their year-long session. If history tells us anything, it tells us that a fair number of bills each year in the Garden State cover issues of interest to truckers.

Tennessee lawmakers are expected to offer a nearly identical number of bills – 5,500 – but cram all of their work into four months. That’s about 350 bills a day on average.

Amazingly, the daily average in Tennessee is nearly the same as the total number of bills that are expected to be offered during the entire regular sessions in two states (Oregon at 350 and Wyoming at 300.)

In Illinois, about 5,100 bills are expected to come up for review. That’s about the same number of total bills that are likely in neighboring Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

At the U.S. Capitol, federal lawmakers are projected to offer 4,600 bills. That equates to about eight bills per elected official.

This is the third time in recent years that I’ve written about the number of bills expected to be offered around the country. During that time it’s no real surprise that states with heavy populations have a tendency to produce the biggest stacks of legislation while generously populated states typically have shorter piles.

That theory goes out the window for 2014 when taking a look at Rhode Island. Little Rhody is expected to have 2,600 bills introduced. That’s more than the combined total in Ohio (725) and Pennsylvania (1,700).

With all the time and money that states put into holding legislative sessions it’s fair to question whether it’s time well spent. Taxpayers shell out a lot of money to keep lawmakers at capitals to review and decide about changes to laws.

A few years back the Houston Chronicle published information that showed the annual cost for legislative sessions in four of the most populated states. California led the way with a nearly $250 million price tag to run the show in Sacramento. In New York, the cost was about $210 million while Florida’s expenses were approaching $200 million and Texas totaled $170 million.

That’s about $830 million with only four states accounted for.

Late summer typically isn’t a hotbed of activity at statehouses and Congress. Nearly all elected officials have headed home for the year, or at least until the fall, to start preparing for their return to their respective capitals.

It will be the final opportunity for many lawmakers to address topics that could factor into whether they get re-elected.

It makes sense for voters to watch out for their pocketbooks by keeping the lines of communication open with elected officials.

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