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Stuck in budget limbo, lawmakers are pre-filing fewer bills

Lawmakers have pre-filed fewer bills for the upcoming session than at the same time two years ago, a potential sign that fewer bills will be filed overall.

That’s not necessarily a surprise given the staggering state budget deficit lawmakers will face when they head back to the Capitol in January.

“I think we can probably anticipate there won’t be enough time to do much else besides the budget next year,” said David Berman, professor emeritus of political science at Arizona State University.

Since the pre-filing period opened Nov. 15, lawmakers have submitted

39 bills, memorials and resolutions, down from the 47 that were pre- filed two years ago at the start of the 2008 legislative session.

Typically, more bills are pre-filed before the second year of a legislative term because the pre-filing period is longer. Also, freshman lawmakers have already been sworn in and are allowed to submit legislation before the session begins.

Last year also saw fewer bills introduced overall than in previous years, in large part because lawmakers were focused on erasing billions of dollars in budget deficits. Next year, legislators will be facing a similar calamity: The fiscal 2010 budget is $1.6 billion in the red and estimates for the next year show a $3 billion shortfall.

Among the legislation pre-filed this year is a bill that would allow taxpayers to voluntarily pay more than they owe, a bill that would reduce legislators’ salaries if they are not present for floor votes and a referendum that would change the state Constitution to limit punitive damages.

Also pre-filed: A resolution to declare Feb. 6 as Ronald Reagan Day in the state.

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