NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he will press Tennessee lawmakers to introduce fewer bills, arguing it will save time and money.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly introduced about 2,200 bills this session. Haslam, also a Republican, said he would like to see the number reduced in 2012 to the "midteens," or by about one-third.
"Everyone says there's no way, but I think there is a way to do that," Haslam told the Nashville-based Lawyers Association for Women.
"When a bill is proposed, it actually does cost money. We have commissioners that then have to run down and say how much does this impact? What's it going to cost?" Haslam said.
Asked later by reporters exactly how he will get the General Assembly, an equal branch of government, to go along with cutting bill filings, Haslam said he plans "to have a conversation" with GOP and Democratic leaders.
There are lots of times that "there's three or four bills filed about the same thing," Haslam said, noting on one proposal to cut a tax there were six or seven bills, all requiring analysis.
Moreover, Haslam said, "as Republicans, we're the party of smaller government. Let's see if we can do that in terms of bill proposals."
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said later Tuesday, "Oddly enough, we had a brief conversation today with the governor and both speakers and [Senate] Majority Leader Mark Norris and myself and discussed that."
While nothing "firm" emerged, McCormick said, "we're all in agreement that, No. 1, we need to introduce fewer bills and possibly would even look at limiting the number of bills that each representative would have."
House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, also had brought up the idea of reducing the number of bills, he said.
One relatively easy move would be to implement a process allowing legal staff to inform legislators when a colleague already has introduced a bill on a specific issue, McCormick said.
Currently, staffers cannot do that under attorney-client guidelines, but if a lawmaker signed a waiver, there should be no problem, McCormick said.
Another method would be to curtail the number of bills that can be introduced, but McCormick said that would require a rule change that likely would have to await the beginning of the 108th General Assembly in 2013.
Over the years, legislative leaders - including the current crop of GOP leaders - have discussed ways to cut down on the number of bills and tried to make getting out early a priority this year.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.