Harwell: Limit Bills, Make Legislature Prioritize

State House Speaker Beth Harwell is trying to tamp down superfluous bills in the state legislature. Harwell is proposing a rule that could cut in half the number of bills each year in the state House.

Harwell says the move will ultimately save taxpayers money. The rule could also leave members fewer chances to grab headlines with bills targeting saggy pants, or the teaching of evolution.

Republican Charles Sargent argues if lawmakers want to bring such bills it’s their privilege, but he agrees there has to be some limit.

“But we file so many bills in the beginning of sessions and nothing happens to them. You have members filing 80, 90 bills, a hundred bills – and they may pass four.”

With 99 members in the House each carrying ten proposals, the resulting limit of just below a thousand bills would amount to roughly half the usual amount, and many of those bills go nowhere.

The proposed rule-change will go to the House Rules Committee, made up of members selected by Harwell.

The cap would be a game-changer for especially prolific members like Nashville Democrat Mike Turner, who’s carried dozens of bills in a year.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to limiting. Ten may be too small. Sometimes the lawmakers that are better sponsors, more people come to them wanting them to sponsor their bills.”

The rules-change would also crack down on lawmakers voting for colleagues who aren’t in the chamber. So-called “ghost voting” took a bruising in news reports earlier this year.

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