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Home / 2011 Session Wrap / In an extremely busy year, Senate passes more bills than House

In an extremely busy year, Senate passes more bills than House

When Senate leaders boast that this is the most fruitful session in years, they have the hard evidence to back up their claim.

Despite being half the size of the House of Representatives, the Senate approved 117 more pieces of legislation than the House sent to them.

Not counting this session, the Senate has passed more bills than the House only twice since 2000 — in 2001 and 2003 — but never by as many bills as this year.

And by the time the governor concluded her actions, 196 Senate bills were signed into law, compared to 161 from the House.

The disparity is best seen when it comes to the number of resolutions that ultimately made it to the Secretary of State’s Office: 28 from the Senate and eight from the House.

One explanation is the Senate hunkered down and kept churning out bills — despite having to deal with several sideshows, including the media circus created by Sen. Scott Bundgaard’s involvement in a roadside fracas with his girlfriend in February.

Actually, the Senate tapped the brakes briefly late in session to prod the House, which some senators said was sitting on their bills.

It’s an annual political tap dance both chambers engage in.

“We ran an efficient Senate,” said Senate President Russell Pearce.

“We moved some tough issues and (dealt with) a tough budget in a timely fashion that nobody thought we could get done. I had the governor and other folks telling me — when we started out this session I had told what was going to happen with the timelines — it can’t happen. You can’t get it done. I said we will get it done and we did get it done,” Pearce said.

But some said the Senate didn’t filter anything out, a role they said fell to the House.

“I think the Senate just said ‘yahoo’ and said ‘yes’ to everybody and everything,” said Sen. Paula Aboud, a Democrat from Tucson.

“The House became the filter, instead of the Senate becoming the filter. Fortunately, the House had the good sense to alter and change some of the more ridiculous legislation — or just to limit it or stop it,” Aboud said.

The House balked at nearly 100 proposals sent over by the Senate. They included legislation that challenged the federal government’s authority through the use of multistate compacts. Some measures were never even assigned to a committee.

In contrast, the Senate rejected fewer than 30 House measures.

But the prevailing sentiment at the Capitol is that the Senate passed more bills because all of its members had served in the Legislature before, except for Republican Sens. Lori Klein of Anthem, Steve Smith of Maricopa and Don Shooter of Yuma.

In contrast, more than a third of the House members hadn’t had any legislative experience.

“It’s unusual because, obviously, there is half as many senators as there are House members, so you would think just by sheer numbers that there might be more House bills than Senate bills (passed),” said longtime lobbyist Barry Aarons.

However, freshmen lawmakers tend not to introduce as many bills. Conversely, veteran legislators usually shepherd more bills all the way to the finish line.

New legislators face a steep learning curve. They need to quickly grasp two things — the process for passing bills and the complexities of topics they come across.

Veterans, on the other hand, not only know the process, but many have mastered parliamentary procedures that allow them to successfully revive or block legislation.

In addition, they are more familiar with the wide variety of subjects that come up every legislative session, from tax conformity to spending per student to ignition interlock devices. They also tend to chair committees, which gives them more clout over the legislative process.

As a result, lobbyists often ask them to take on more complex subjects and to introduce more bills.

That helps to explain why Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, introduced a whopping 71 measures, 18 of which were ultimately enacted.

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