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Was there more partisanship at the Utah Legislature this session?

The Utah State Capitol is pictured. (File photo: KUTV)
The Utah State Capitol is pictured. (File photo: KUTV)
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A Brigham Young University political science professor said a shift in which lawmakers voted against bills most often could point to rising partisanship in the Utah Legislature.

Typically, legislators on the Republican Party’s right wing cast the most opposition votes, Professor Adam Brown told KUTV 2News.

But looking at the House of Representatives this session – with the exception of freshman GOP Rep. Quinn Kotter – the most prolific nay voters were Democrats.

“This reflects a shift in the sort of bills coming to the floor, with more partisan bills that divide the parties coming up than usual,” Brown wrote in an email to KUTV 2News. “It's still the case that the overwhelming number of bills that passed were simple, bipartisan, functional bills. But instead of the controversial bills being ones that divided the right flank from the Republican mainstream, as we've usually seen in the past, the controversial bills this year divided the parties.”

According to data compiled by Brown, Kotter (R-West Valley City) cast the most opposition votes in the House chamber this session with 129, or more than 16 percent of his total votes.

Notably, Kotter was the only lawmaker in either party to vote against one of the central components of the state’s $28 billion budget on the final day of the session last Friday. Kotter did not respond to a request for comment about that.

But after him, the next eight highest no-voting lawmakers were Democrats. In order, that included Rep. Brett Garner (D-West Valley City), Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion (D-Cottonwood Heights), Rep. Angela Romero (D-Salt Lake City), Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City), Rep. Doug Owens (D-Millcreek), Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-Holladay), Rep. Sandra Hollins (D-Salt Lake City), and Rep. Sahara Hayes (D-Millcreek).

That’s in contrast to last session, Brown said, where the top 13 no-voting lawmakers were all Republicans.

Brown posted other data from this session on his Twitter page. According to Brown, Democrats struggled more to get their bills to the House or Senate floors, and they passed just 34 percent of their bills this session – the second-worst year out of the 17 years he’s been tracking that.

That could be due to the supermajority's Republican leaders blocking them, Brown said, or committees simply rejecting the bills before they had a chance for a floor vote.

Brown said some people may feel this session was more partisan due to several contentious bills on school vouchers and transgender youth treatment being debated and passed in the opening days.

But was there really more partisanship this session compared to others?

“The Utah Legislature is so much more lopsided than Congress that we don't see the same incentives to demonize,” Brown wrote on Twitter. “I don't endorse lack of competition, but it has facilitated bipartisanship. We still have much better party relations here than in DC, but perhaps less in 2023.”

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For the full data from Brown's analysis of the legislative session, click here.

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