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WASTE WATCH: Lawmakers Say Bill Limit Saves Money - John Dunn

Updated: Monday, February 10 2014, 10:35 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Lawmakers say they have found a way to save more than a million dollars by reducing the amount of legislation they file each year. Lawmakers spend months each year debating new laws inside the State Capitol. In a typical year they might consider 4,000 bills, but this year the number is about 2,500 bills, the lowest in nearly 30 years.

The Tennessee state legislature revolves around the making and passing of laws. House Speaker Beth Harwell came up with a way to save both time and money.  She introduced a limit of 15 bills per House member. "It really does force the members to think about what's most important to the district, what is most important to the state," says TN Rep. Beth Harwell, (R) Nashville.

Tennessee has seen its share of controversial proposals. There have been bills about guns, religion, bills about homosexuality in schools, and even one about the proper way for men to wear their pants.

For every bill filed there is a cost. Staff members research the idea, attorneys review and write the legislation, and clerks help guide it through the system. A 2009 analysis found that at a minimum each bill under consideration costs taxpayers at least $800. "We have attorneys that draft up our legislation and it's quite expensive and time consuming to draft that up," says TN Rep. Glen Casada, (R) Williamson County.

While many lawmakers support the 15 bill limit, not everyone thinks it's a good idea. "Any minor cost savings, even if those exist, are not justified by any sort of restrictions on that process which frankly has worked very well for over a century," says TN Rep. Mike Stewart, (D) Nashville.

State Representative Mike Stewart says lawmakers should not be restricted in their ability to introduce legislation. Others say it's all about prioritizing.

Speaker Harwell is confident your tax money is not being wasted, and government is working more efficiently. "Bills introduced turn into laws, and laws become big government, so we have stopped that in its tracks by limiting the number of bills," says Speaker Harwell.

A smaller number of bills could also allow the General Assembly to wrap up earlier this year. That would save taxpayers about $200,000 per week.
For news updates follow John Dunn on twitter @WZTVJohnDunn

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