- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - State lawmakers are considering adding a few weeks to Utah’s whirlwind 45-day legislative session to allow more time for debate and careful reading of bills.

The state constitution stipulates that lawmakers meet for 45 calendar days each year, among the shortest legislative sessions in the country.

During that time, lawmakers typically churn through at least 700 bills and pass at least half of them.

“Yeah we’re doing quantity, but not quality,” Coalville Republican Rep. Mel Brown said Monday. “I know the first thing that’s going to be said . ‘Why do we want to give them more days? They do enough damage in 45.’ And legitimately so. We do a lot of damage in 45 because we’re not doing the public’s work like we ought to.”

Rep. Patrice Arent, a Salt Lake City Democrat, said lawmakers aren’t reading legislation closely. “We pass a lot of bills that people don’t read, that we don’t do the job we should be doing,” Arent said.

Brown, Arent and other lawmakers on the Legislative Process Committee endorsed the idea of a longer session on Monday.

They recommended another panel study the issue, which would still need approval from the full Legislature and voters.

Lawmakers do not meet on weekends, so their annual sessions are closer to 32 days, the Deseret News reported.

The proposal endorsed Monday would extend the session to 45 business days within 90 calendar days. That means that once lawmakers convene in late January, they will be meeting and debating bills until the end of March and possibly to late April, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that session lengths vary widely across the states, from unrestricted lengths to sessions that must wrap on a specific date every year.

Logan Sen. Lyle Hillyard, a Republican, said he worries that an extra 13 days will just mean more bills and a bigger crunch at the end.

Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, opposed the idea, saying he worried that lawmakers who take a leave from their full-time jobs during the session may find it tough to miss more work days.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that any change to the length of the session would require an amendment to the Constitution on the 2016 ballot, which would have to be approved by voters before it could take effect for the 2017 session.

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