Utah lawmakers only have 45 days a year to do their job. It’s the one of the shortest annual legislative session in the country, and some lawmakers hope to extend it.
A proposal approved by the eight-person Legislative Process Committee Monday would extend the session from 45 calendar days to 45 business days, adding about two-and-a-half weeks to the session.
“As the dynamics of the state have grown — population, size of budget, time demands, and so on — the legislature tries earnestly to do the public’s business in the same amount of time, and there’s a lot more business to do,” Rep. Mel Brown (R) told the Salt Lake Tribune. The Washington Post was unable to reach Brown.
In the 2014 session, about a third of all bills, or 159 out of 486, were passed in the final day of the session.
“In Utah, it’s almost like Cinderella at the ball at midnight,” Rep. Kraig Powell (R) told the Washington Post. “I would say that it’s very difficult for legislators to know or understand exactly what we’re voting for on those last two days … we are expected to sit on the floor of the chamber and use our laptops and just read through the laptops and listen to the speeches and presentations that are being made.”
Powell said an extended session could be helpful, but only if other procedural changes were made to keep lawmakers from simply putting off voting for bills by a few weeks.
Rep. Mike McKell (R), the only member of the Legislative Process Committee who voted against the extension proposal, said he thinks the move would change the make up of the legislature since it isn’t a full-time professional body and members have to take time off of their jobs every year for the session.
“I think the makeup of the body would change,” McKell, who is an attorney, said. “Fewer young professionals would be able to serve in the legislature.”
Utah’s 45-day session is the shortest annual legislative session that counts calendar days, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Georgia and South Dakota meet for 40 days but do not count weekends and holidays, and Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Wyoming all meet for less than 45 days every other year.
There are 17 states that meet at least every other year for a legislative session shorter than 72 days, the amount of time between when Kim Kardashian married NBA player Kris Humphries and filed for divorce in 2011.