With the start of Utah’s 2020 legislative session one week away, some lawmakers have filed a dozen bills, and others just a handful. Some have only filed one or two bills. But Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, has filed 38 bills so far, more than any representative or senator in the state.
The next highest number of filed bills is 29, which is the amount that have been filed by Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, according to bill request totals tracked by the legislature. Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin; Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy; and Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, have each filed 25 bills.
Anderegg said 11 of them are bills he filed in previous legislative sessions but that still needed work done on them. It can take several years for a bill and the ideas behind it to become policy, he said.
Additionally, the high number has to do with the fact that Anderegg co-chairs a number of commissions and committees and therefore introduces bills that reflect the will of those bodies, he said. These include the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, the Political Subdivisions Interim Committee and the Commission on Housing Affordability.
It can be misleading to look at the raw number of bills filed, the Lehi senator said, because even minor adjustments to legislation require a file to be opened.
“If you want to change a comma, you have to open a bill file,” he said, adding that “It’s more about looking at the substance of what is in the bill as opposed to the number of bills.”
Of the 38 bills introduced so far, Anderegg said he expects to run 20 to 25 of them. There are already 10 or so that “have kind of weeded themselves out” since he filed them.
“For me, it’s not about the number of bills,” he said. “It’s about working to get the policy right.”
Much of Anderegg’s work this legislative session will focus on population growth and development in the state, he said.
Comprehensive Rail and Electrification Plan, for example, which has not been given a bill number yet, would “help maximize the dollars that are spent on transportation” by planning railways that support both commuter and freight usage.
Under recent federal regulations, waivers can be granted for railways that do just that, said Anderegg.
“That opens up a new resource for revenue capture so that we’re not subsidizing transportation to the same level that we have in the past for a commuter rail,” he said.
In line with his role on the criminal justice subcommittee, Anderegg is working on a bill that would create more transparency in county jails. Sheriff’s offices in Utah are not required to release their standards, policies and procedures related to the handling of inmates when someone in their custody is killed or injured, Anderegg said, making it difficult for the public to determine if protocol was violated.
“And that tends to be problematic,” he said. “It’s a bit of a problem for me if, when someone is killed or injured, they can say, ‘well, our procedures are protected and you can’t access them.’ … How do we know that you’re following correct procedure in how you’ve handled the inmates?”
Anderegg’s bill County Jails Transparency Requirements would make these policies and procedures public. He added that some jail procedures, such as how to prevent drug smuggling, should be kept private to “avoid giving a roadmap to a criminal.”
Another bill, Homeless Shelter and Services Sharing Amendments, would require nonprofits that provide homeless services to upload information about the individuals they serve into a case management system.
Shelters and service providers tend to keep information about their services private since they are competing for the same state and federal funding, Anderegg said. As a result, it is difficult for the state to keep track of who needs what and which publicly funded services are working, he said.
“We’re basically pushing (homeless service providers) to do what they should have been doing a long time ago, but for self-interested purposes they wouldn’t,” said Anderegg.
Other bills Anderegg has filed include affordable housing amendments, water use amendments, sales tax obligations for minors and consumer online data protection. A full list of bills he has filed can be viewed on his Utah State Senate page.