House facing 15 bill/delegate limitation.

Under new rules of the House of Delegates, effect come January’s session, they’ve limited their members to introducing 15 bills per person, 10 pre-filed and 5 after the session begins. Assuming that delegates remain within their self-enforced rules, compare last year’s 2,234 bills to a maximum of 1,500 this time around. That’s a 33% drop in bills.

During this year’s session, only 30 members of the General Assembly submitted 15 or fewer bills. The average number submitted was 22; the mode was 18; the median 20.5. Bob Marshall topped out the list, with 75, followed by Mark Cole with 45, and a steady drop-off from there. 479 commendations were introduced in all (by my count). It’s true that this year was a budget session, while next year will be a regular session, but I’m not sure that particularly affects the bill counts, since budget amendments aren’t bills but, of course, amendments.

I have to wonder what the result of this limitation is going to be. Will we see a drastic result in commendations, license plate proposals, etc? Or will those be precisely the sort of feel-good pap that remains, with more complex proposals abandoned? It’s going to be tough to measure the result of this change meaningfully, but I intend to try.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “House facing 15 bill/delegate limitation.”

  1. Hopefully they’ll abandon the practice of having 8 different legislators introduce the same bill, with different numbers. Only one comes out of committee, but the job of tracking the legislation gets a lot tougher.

  2. I don’t think commendations count towards their bill count. If they did, then that would probably end the practice altogether.

  3. I don’t know, Stephen, I suspect there would be a few proper bills that had some commendations rolled into them somewhere. You’d see a House Bill to provide funding for a study of bridges in Hampton Roads; and to recognize the importance of the Washington and Lee Golf Team’s winning season.

    Or there would be one commendation bill every year, and it would turn into a Christmas Tree for everyone else’s commendations. The same bill mourning the passing of a beloved public school teacher in Fairfax would also celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the establishment of a recreational bowling league’s charity bowl-a-thon in Bedford. It would be the Omnibus Commendation Bill of 2009, and the one and only stipulation would be that for every commendation you hang on the tree, you have to buy a drink for the legislator who sacrificed one of his 15 bills towards setting it up.

  4. This will be interesting. I hope you’ll post updates here alerting folks to check out what you’ve learned at Richmond Sunlight.


  5. Actually, what we call “the single-object rule” is in the Virginia Constitution so it would be pretty hard to overturn. Here is what Article IV, § 12 says: “No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title. Nor shall any law be revived or amended with reference to its title, but the act revived or the section amended shall be reenacted and published at length.”

  6. Score one for Kris!

    What would be awesome is if the legislators were allowed to set up a market in bills. So if Delegate 1 was feeling uninspired one session and only came up with, say, 13 proposals, Bob Marshall could purchase his other two bill credits. A cash market would work, but I’m thinking that you all could come up with far more interesting trades. You could offer Bob your leftover bill credits if he agrees to, I dunno, wash your car, or fetch coffee for a week or something.

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