The Bills of September

As budget deadline looms, lawmakers find time to introduce 304 new bills

Updated on Oct. 1

Facing a Sept. 30 deadline to adopt a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the Legislature has been busy with more than just closing the desired-spending vs. expected-revenue gap (a.k.a. “the deficit”). In the 30 days preceding the deadline they introduced 304 bills.

That is 304 new laws proposed by a Legislature of 148 souls in just one month.

To be fair, some of these are related to the budget. Tax increase proposals, for example – on one day alone 25 of these were introduced. These include a 4 percent tax on doctors, income tax hikes, a levy of 1-cent per bottle of water, a resurrection of the state’s undead death tax, and many more.

In addition to the tax hikes there were bills covering every subject under the sun, including serious mental health patient protection bills, the usual assortment of energy efficiency and renewable energy subsidy programs (including yet another $100 million electric car maker subsidy), the usual handful of bills granting tax breaks to particular entities under the cover of thinly veiled obfuscatory language, a couple new licensure mandates including one for home “gold and jewelry party” sales events, a bill authorizing new types of local government “authorities” to do various things, one revising wetlands permit laws to accommodate cranberry cultivation, and much, much more. A complete list is posted here.

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By the way, the bills legislators introduce generally fall into one of several categories:

• Serious, sincere, substantive public policy proposals large or small that “really might pass” but only after a whole lot of research, relationship-building, compromise, etc.

• Bills that have no chance – “Dead On Arrival” – introduced to please some particular special interest, like government employees, police, local governments, business, etc.

• “DOA” bills making ideological statements intended to please some portion of a legislator’s political base – environmentalists, gun proponents or opponents, abortion activists (pro or anti), “liberals,” “conservatives,” etc.

• Bills that “deliver the goods” to a particular firm or developer in the form of some narrow tax exemption, subsidy, preference, or other favor; or to a particular profession in the form of imposing new or expanded licensure restrictions (which limit competition).

• Bills that “really might pass” because they make some microscopic “housecleaning” change in an existing statute with no practical or substantive effect, offered so the legislator can puff the number of “new laws” he or she has “authored.”

• Annual “must pass” bills like budgets.

• Other routine but necessary “statutory housecleaning” – not introduced simply to “get a bill passed.”