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In a typical 45-day General Session, each chamber of the Utah Legislature schedules roughly 120 hours of floor debate time. Not all this time actually gets used:
I wrote a program that scrapes bookmarks from archived House and Senate floor videos. These bookmarks allow viewers to jump to discussion of a particular bill. This method means that time "considering" a particular time includes not only time debating that bill, but also time voting on it or addressing other motions relevant to it, such as motions to circle or amend a bill. Recognize that a typical House or Senate floor vote takes about 2 minutes, so deduct that from time "considering" a particular bill if you want an estimate of how long the bill was actually debated.
Even when the Utah House or Utah Senate is on the floor, legislators are often engaged in activities other than consideration of bills: Waiting for legislators to sit and come to order (the biggest single use of non-bill time), recesses/saunters, recognizing visitors to the capitol, hearing from the governor or from Utah's representatives in Congress, and so on.
Both chambers spend more time on the floor late in the session. Two reasons: (1) Many bills get introduced late the session, making it impossible to consider them earlier (details), and (2) bills need to get through committee before they come to the floor.
Here is floor time (in each chamber) per week in the most recent General Session:
And here is the same chart going back several years:
For comparison, here is the total number of bills that spent on time on the floor, by chamber, for each day of each General Session. The number of bills receiving floor consideration shows a clear upward trend as over the course of a session. (In this chart, if a bill was heard on more than one day in a particular chamber, it is plotted on each of those days.
Only a handful of bills receive more than passing attention on the floor. This chart depicts a separate vertical line for each bill considered in the most recent General Session, with enacted bills at left and failed bills at right. Bills are sorted by how much floor consideration they received.
Most years, the median enacted bill receives 10-15 minutes of total floor consideration (adding across both chambers). If we assume that 2 minutes of that "consideration" went to House voting, and 2 minutes went to each of the Senate votes (the Senate votes twice on each bill), then deducting 6 total minutes of voting time from the 10-15 minute median implies only 4-9 minutes of actual debate—total, across both chambers—for the median bill. In other words, the median enacted bill receives something like 2-4 minutes of discussion in the House, and 2-4 minutes of discussion in the Senate, before passing.
In the most recent General Session (2019), these bills received the most total floor consideration (combining House and Senate):
|Bill||Total floor consideration (minutes)||Enacted?|
Year over year, the number of bills passed by the Legislature is on a generally upward trend. Year over year, the amount of time spent on the floor is on a generally downward trend. Put this together, and the median enacted bill winds up spending less time on the House and Senate floors as time goes by.
As noted above, these charts rely on bookmarked tags in the Legislature's archived floor videos. These tags are written by staff. Since the tags are not always written the same way, it gets difficult to aggregate all these tags to identify the main uses of non-bill time. For example, here are the tags that had the most time attached to them in the most recent session, 2019:
|Description||Total floor time (minutes)||As % of all non-bill time|
|Standing Committee Reports||406||16%|
|Rules Committee Report||180||7%|
|Introduction of Bills||178||7%|
|Prayer, Pledge, Quorum||167||7%|
|Communications from the Senate||125||5%|
|Call to Order||28||1%|
|Committee of the Whole||26||1%|
|State of the Judiciary-Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant||23||1%|
|Conference Committee Report||22||1%|
|Opening Remarks-President Adams||20||1%|
Much non-bill time is spent waiting for people to sit down. This time is generally tagged as "Recording 1," "Recording 2," and so on—these tags indicate that the cameras were turned on at the scheduled start of floor time, but nothing has happened yet. The number starts over each day, but increments (within each day) if the cameras were turned off for a break. By using wildcard searches for things like %Recording%, %Prayer%, %Recognition%, etc, we can get a better sense for how much time was spent in common non-bill activities in 2019: