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Utah State Legislature breaks the record for most bill requests ever

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Legislature has broken its record for most bills requested in a session.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, announced Thursday that 1,272 bills had been requested by lawmakers in the 2017 session. Last year, it was 1,258.

Speaking to reporters, the Senate President defended the number of bills lawmakers are filing.

"I'm proud that we have a system where any person of any mind can bring an issue before the legislature and we get to address it. It's a free speech issue," he said, before joking: "It's an indication there's more speech than last year!"

Lawmakers insisted they are responding to constituent needs. They also said the 45-day session whittles down the number of bills that are actually debated and passed, with the priority bills rising to the top.

"I think we have a lot, but I think they kind of sift down," said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, who sits on the Senate Rules Committee that decides what bills get heard. "By the time they come down it's good legislation, we can vote for it. We're doing our job."

By the time the Utah State Legislature wraps up in March, about 500 bills will ultimately be passed. Then they go to Utah Governor Gary Herbert for his signature or veto. When told about the record number of bills on Thursday, the governor quipped: "Is that all?"

"Seems like a lot to me," he said. "I'm not going to fault the legislature for trying to do their job, but there seem to be more and more all the time."

At a news conference, the governor seemed to question the need for so many bills.

"I know every legislator comes up here and feels like they come with a mandate to do something. I expect that's what their constituents expect them to do, do something," he said. "There's no end to good intentions."

Niederhauser said several hundred bill files will ultimately be abandoned this weekend, meaning they will never be heard by the legislature.