If you thought the 2017 Utah Legislature was rather quiet – as partisan battles go – you are correct.
Brigham Young University political science professor Adam Brown always does interesting analysis on his utahdatapoints.com web site.
And here is his annual legislative partisanship survey.
It shows that in the last 45-day general session, which ended earlier this month, the majority Republicans in the House and Senate passed, overall, 68 percent of their bills and resolutions.
That’s a good percentage, historically.
But the minority Democrats – and I mean really minority, they hold so few seats – passed overall 53 percent of the bills and resolutions they introduced.
That is a good score for the Democrats, as well.
And that 53 percent number is especially good when you consider that liberal Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, decided in 2017 to introduce bills that clearly had no chance of passage – but he hoped would have some discussion.
All four of Dabakis’ bills failed in Senate committees, some not even getting a public hearing.
There are only 13 House Democrats and just five Senate Democrats. So if one of the 18 Democrats has no bills passed, it affects his colleagues’ overall bill passing ratio.
In any case, Brown finds that – as is usually the case – few really partisan votes took place this past session.
In the House, by Brown’s figuring, only 13 percent of the bills had what could be called a partisan vote.
In the more collegial Senate, it was only 6 percent of the bills passed along partisan lines.
Now, this doesn’t mean there weren’t partisan battles.
For the second Legislature in a row, the majority Republicans took away minority power at the state level.
You may remember last session the majority Republicans put extra GOP votes on the Legislative Management Committee and in the Legislative Audit Subcommittee.
Both committees had been evenly split, the same number of Republican and the same number of Democratic votes, although the majority Republicans chaired the committees.
Rarely had there been partisan problems on either committee. But on occasion one or more of the Republicans on those committees were absent, and the minority Democrats actually got their way – although at a future meeting the majority Republicans could undo what the Democrats did.
This past session, Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, ran a bill (HB11) that took partisan appointments out of some state boards and commissions – meaning the appointing governor could put all Republicans on it, or if the appointment needed Senate confirmation, again the Republican governor and majority-GOP Senate could put only Republicans on it.
While true that most state boards and commissions rarely, if ever, vote along party lines, legislative Democrats still cried foul that their influence on some important boards was potentially being eliminated.