Should There Be a Limit on How Many Bills a Lawmaker Can Submit?


ND State Capitol (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

As I’ve noted before, the early weeks of January in every odd-numbered year is a bonanza for those of us always on the hunt for political topics to write or talk about. Because it’s those weeks when the bulk of bills to be considered by our state Legislature get introduced.

But are there too many bills introduced? Apparently some lawmakers think so. A group of them, led by prime sponsor Senator Tom Campbell of Grafton, have introduced SB2255 (see below) which would limit the number of bills a given lawmaker could introduce:

I think there is going to be an appetite in the public for this. Every legislative session incoming tide of proposed legislation is met with groans from some in the public about how this or that bill is a “waste of time” (here’s what I think of that attitude).

And sometimes lawmakers really do bring in a lot of bills. Case in point, state Rep. Rick Becker is a sponsor of no fewer than 48 bills this session (some of those are situations where he’s the co-sponsor).

But would it be smart to limit lawmakers in this way? I’m not so sure.

We already have a very constrained legislature. Our Senators and Representatives are only on the job part-time, relying on data and testimony from full-time executive branch politicians and bureaucrats to make their decisions. Also the lawmakers really only have power to act when in session, something that can be only for 80 days each biennium.

Certain interim committees have authority to do certain things when the full legislature is not in session, but those things are very limited (as they should be).

The idea behind these constraints on the Legislature can be summed up a maxim usually attributed to Mark Twain: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

There is truth in that, but what happens when the legislative branch of government is too constrained? It seems like we then get an empowered bureaucracy and executive branch.

The goal shouldn’t to be to have one branch or the other be empowered. The goal should be balance. I’m not so sure that our state government isn’t already unbalanced in favor of the executive branch.

I’d rather not see the scales tipped further.

I’m not sure quantity is the right measure anyway. If a given lawmaker introduces a whole bunch of bills,

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