Friday, August 13, 2010

Next year’s lawmakers: Fast and furious

While the summer heat thrives and winter seems a light-year away, it may appear a tad early to look ahead at how much activity is anticipated at statehouses and Congress for the 2011 calendar year.

But for people like myself who track state issues there is no time to waste when it comes to keeping up with legislative happenings. And with 83 percent of elected officials on ballots this November, the activity at capitals across the country will likely be fast and furious with a lot of new lawmakers anxious to make an early mark during their tenure.

According to StateNet, there will be a nearly 50 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 in the number of bills introduced at state capitals and Congress. In all, 147,800 bills are anticipated next year everywhere from Providence to Phoenix.

Once the New Year starts, two states are expected to be churning out far and away more bills than any other state. You’ve likely heard that everything is bigger in Texas. The 12,400 bills that are expected in Austin next year seem to prove that statement. But even the Lone Star state appears to be no match for the Empire State. New York lawmakers are expected to offer a whopping 16,000 bills.

Amazingly, the two states are pegged to offer nearly 20 percent of all anticipated bill introductions throughout the nation AND Congress.

Even more interestingly, New York lawmakers will be busy throughout the year while Texas is slated to cram all of their work into less than five months. That is more than 2,700 bills each month in Austin – or 675 per week.

The per-week average in Texas is more than the total number of bills that are expected to be offered during the regular sessions in four states (Alaska, Delaware, South Dakota and Wyoming.)

As was the case a year ago when I wrote a blog about how many bills are expected to be offered in states, it is no real surprise that states with heavy populations have a tendency to produce the biggest stacks of legislation while generously populated states typically have shorter piles.

Other notables:

Hawaii is estimated to offer 4,500 bills – the same number of bills that Arizona, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin are collectively expected to offer.

Puerto Rico is expected to consider more bills than any state except Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Texas. The U.S. territory is estimated to offer 6,000 bills.

While in session for only six weeks, Virginia lawmakers are expected to roll out a whopping 2,600 bills – or 433 bills a week. On the other hand, Wyoming lawmakers are estimated to introduce 500 bills during their seven-week session – or 71 bills a week.

At the U.S. Capitol, 9,100 bills are expected to be introduced in 2011. That is nearly double the 4,850 bills anticipated for 2010.

There really shouldn’t be any surprise that StateNet is predicting a nearly 50 percent increase in bill introductions from a year ago. There are expected to be a lot of fresh agendas at capitals.

And with so many governors on ballots across the country – 37 seats total – with four of every five state lawmakers and 88 percent of Congress, the agendas could reflect different attitudes on a lot of issues. That should be reason enough to make sure to cast a ballot this November.