By Joel Campbell
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s legislature faces a stressful 45-day session filled with hearings, debates, negotiations and compromises.
Over the course of this session, they will create or adjust laws that touch on just about every aspect of Utahns’ lives. Lawmakers are expected to discuss everything from the controversy over same-sex marriage to the speed limits on roads to how much Utahns will pay at the gas pump.
Adam Brown, a BYU political science professor who directs about 30 student interns who work with lawmakers, said most Utah residents take for granted the amount of work Utah lawmakers accomplish in not even seven weeks.
“Most of our country’s real governing does not happen in Washington, D.C. Utah’s legislature alone passes twice as many laws per year as Congress,” Brown said. In 2013, legislators proposed nearly 900 bills and resolutions. Some 58 percent of bills passed and were sent to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
Utah’s part-time bicameral legislature includes 75 members of the House of Representatives and 29 Senate members. They come from all walks of life and all parts of the state, but a large chunk of the lawmakers hold bachelor’s and advanced degrees from BYU.
Former Rep. Derek Brown, a BYU adjunct professor who now heads U.S. Sen. Mike Lee’s Utah office, recently told a group of BYU students that lawmakers can be realtors, insurance agents, school administrators, school bus drivers, lawyers and stay-at-home moms.
Utah County, the second most populous county in the state, has 14 total representative and senators. The Speaker of the House, Becky Lockhart, is Utah’s first female House leader. She earned a nursing degree from BYU, and her district includes a section of South Provo.