Menu Adam R Brown

Return to the Guide to the Utah Legislature.

The Utah Senate's second reading rule

Utah Senate rules require each bill to pass two separate floor votes, at least 24 hours apart, to pass out of the chamber. (Utah House rules require only a single floor vote.) Let's see what impact this rule has.

To clarify terminology: Because a bill's introduction is known as its "First Reading," these two votes are known as the "Second Reading" (first floor vote) and "Third Reading" (second floor vote) of a bill. (Bills also undergo three "readings" as they move through the Utah House, but receive a floor vote only during the "Third Reading.")

Only around half of enrolled bills receive both required votes

The requirement to vote twice on each bill comes from the Utah Senate's internal rules, not from the Utah Constitution, which means the Utah Senate can waive this requirement for any bill. There are two common ways this happens. First, a senator can move to temporarily suspend this rule for a particular bill—something that happens routinely in the final days of the 7-week General Session. Also, bills with unanimous support out of committee can bypass this requirement through the streamlined Consent Calendar process.

The following chart shows the share of enrolled bills and resolutions that received separate Second Reading and Third Reading votes in the Utah Senate during the 2021 General Session. "Enrolled" means it passed the Legislature and was sent to the governor for a signature if required. I omit House Resolutions, which require no Senate action. Only around half of bills receive both required votes.

Bills rarely fail after passing their preliminary vote

Bills that pass their Senate Second Reading vote nearly always pass their Senate Third Reading vote. (This chart uses only bills that had one of each kind of vote. If a bill had two Third Reading votes under a motion to reconsider, it is not shown.)

This does not mean every bill that passed its Second Reading later became law. Many bills make some progress but fail to get all the way through the legislative process before the General Session ends. Others clear the Senate but die in the House. For bills that passed their Second Reading votes in recent years (orange bars), this chart shows the number that made it to a Senate Third Reading vote (blue bars) and ultimately were passed ("enrolled," green bars). Most bills that clear a Senate Second Reading vote pass.

Senators rarely change their minds between votes

The most common switching is between "absent" and "yes." Senators who miss either the Second Reading vote or Third Reading vote nearly always vote "yes" on the other. This makes sense: Typically, the senators who miss the most votes are also the senators who vote "nay" the least—that is, majority party leadership and budget chairs—which produces this aggregate pattern.

There is no similar relationship between absences and "nay" votes.

Omitting absences, there is minimal other vote switching. Senators who vote "yes" or "no" on the Second Reading nearly always vote the same way on the Third Reading.

Which individual senators change their minds most often between votes?

During preliminary (Second Reading) votes, senators sometimes say "yes on 2" instead of simply "yes." Doing so signals a threat to the bill's sponsor that this preliminary "yes" will become a "no" on the final (Third Reading) vote unless the bill receives certain changes to the bill. As shown above, bills that clear their preliminary vote tend to get enacted. Maybe this means "yes on 2" threats always, without any exception ever, induce the requested changes prior to a bill's final vote. Maybe this means "yes on 2" threats are not credible.

This table shows how often each senator switched sides between a bill's Second Reading and Third Reading votes in the 2021 General Session. It includes only bills that received one of each vote, thus excluding bills heard under Consent, suspension, or reconsideration. If a senator missed either vote for a particular bill, I remove that bill from that senator's denominator; the focus here is on switching sides, not missing votes. There is minimal vote switching, but perhaps just enough to make "yes on 2" a credible threat.

Want a different year?

Legislator Percent changed Denominator # yes to no # no to yes
Adams, J. Stuart 1.1% 180 1 1
Anderegg, Jacob L. 5.0% 221 4 7
Bramble, Curtis S. 1.1% 182 2 0
Buxton, D. Gregg 1.4% 281 1 3
Cullimore, Kirk A. 0.9% 233 1 1
Davis, Gene 3.4% 267 6 3
Escamilla, Luz Robles 2.5% 240 4 2
Fillmore, Lincoln 2.5% 242 6 0
Grover, Keith 1.9% 259 2 3
Harper, Wayne A. 4.3% 278 7 5
Hinkins, David P. 2.5% 275 2 5
Ipson, Don L. 2.6% 192 2 3
Iwamoto, Jani 1.8% 271 4 1
Johnson, John D. 9.2% 284 13 13
Kennedy, Michael S. 2.4% 290 2 5
Kitchen, Derek L. 4.3% 279 6 6
Mayne, Karen 2.4% 252 4 2
McCay, Daniel 3.5% 229 6 2
McKell, Mike K. 1.7% 230 2 2
Millner, Ann 0.4% 232 1 0
Owens, Derrin 4.5% 265 4 8
Riebe, Kathleen 4.4% 274 5 7
Sandall, Scott D. 2.8% 253 4 3
Stevenson, Jerry W. 1.6% 190 2 1
Thatcher, Daniel W. 0.5% 208 0 1
Vickers, Evan J. 2.9% 241 2 5
Weiler, Todd 2.5% 275 3 4
Wilson, Chris H. 2.1% 291 3 3
Winterton, Ronald 2.1% 281 2 4