Taking the concept of limited government to the next level, the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives this week passed a rule capping the number of bills a member can introduce each year at 15.
Backers of the cap — believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — say it will streamline the legislative process, save money and cut down on such outre proposals on roadkill edibility and low-hanging waistlines for men that have earned the chamber a national reputation for legislative originality.
According to state figures, the House have averaged about 1,341 bills each year since 2005, which works out to 13.5 bills for each of the 99 House members, although individual bill introductions can vary widely.
Minority Democrats said the bill cap, approved Thursday, smacked of censorship under the old Soviet Union, but defenders said the limit could improve the quality of the bills that do get introduced.
“Moses did a really good job with just 10 laws, and we’re getting 15 apiece,” state Rep. Bill Dunn, a Republican from Knoxville, told the Tennessean newspaper.
Republicans rejected a Democratic amendment to allow the chamber’s majority and minority leaders to be allowed to file an extra 15 bills. The ban does not extend to the state Senate, but it would limit the number of new laws GOP Gov. Bill Haslam can propose in his legislative package to 75.
The bill-introducing cap is not a hard one: It does not apply to private acts that affect an individual locality in the state and does not apply to honorary resolutions, according to the Tennessean. It also exempts bill introduced by the governor or by House members dealing with budgetary and bonding authority issues.