SB2255, introduced by Senator Tom Campbell of Grafton, isn’t a complicated piece of policy. It’s quite short, in fact. It limits the number of bills any given lawmaker can introduce per session to seven:
This idea is popular with some in the public who complain about the amount of time lawmakers waste on this or that legislation (though I’d point out that what is and is not a “waste of time” is very much in the eye of the beholder). It also got a “do pass” recommendation from the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee.
But it went down in flames on the Senate floor on a 6-40 vote, and based on the arguments against it that’s not a surprising outcome.
Senator Bill Vedaa, a Republican from Velva, said the bill would “shrink government” and could “eliminate the bills we often get criticized about.”
But it’s not clear, from the data, that this claim is true.
Senator Judy Lee (R-Fargo) pointed out that in 2015 lawmakers introduced an average of about 6 bills each. In the current session that average has dropped to about 5.
Senator Dick Dever (R-Bismarck) said that even if lawmakers came up against the cap they could get around it by lumping legislation together. “We could end up seeing some very long and complicated bills,” he said.
“We introduce too many bills,” Senator David Hogue (R-Minot) said while agreeing with the intent of the legislation. “We spin ourselves around in circles.”
But he said this legislation would “unnecessarily surrender our autonomy.” He said that if Senators want to limit the number of bills they introduce they should put it in the Senate rules, not in state statue. IT would be a “strategic mistake to let other houses and branches of government tell us how to do our business,” he said.
He also proposed something interesting: Taking the names of lawmakers off the bills. He said putting names on bills “just interjects personalities.”
It’s an intriguing idea, I guess, but I don’t see it accomplishing much in a practical sense. It would be pretty clear, during the workings of the Legislature, who introduced a given bill. And there is some transparency value requiring that lawmakers put their names on a given proposal.
As for the legislation itself, I didn’t like it. The bills a lawmaker does or does not introduce is between that lawmaker and his/her constituency. Leave it at that.
Here’s video of the floor debate: