Entity: 582
Entity Type: State Government


The Utah Territory was created by an act of the United States Congress on 9 September 1850. The act provided the structure of the territorial government and within that structure a legislative assembly and governor would hold the legislative power in the territory. The Territorial Assembly first met on 22 September 1851 to create laws to govern the territory. The Assembly continued to meet and make laws until 1896 when the dream of statehood became a reality for Utah. In 1896, the Utah State Constitution distributed the powers of government to three departments, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The constitution further defined the framework of the Utah State Legislature. They met for the first time as a state governing body in January of 1896. They too, were responsible for the creation of laws. Some responsibilities grew, some were reined in, and others did not change. Since 1851, Utah has had a citizen legislature rather than a full time legislature. The session are open to the public and the public is encouraged to use their voice.

Biography/History Notes

The purpose of the Legislature is to generate laws to govern Utah and its citizens. This endeavor is accomplished through bills, acts, resolutions, claims, memorials, and petitions. The Legislature has met at various times since 1851 to pass, amend, and repeal laws. Changes in session duration and time, the introduction of bills, and legislative jurisdiction are among the mutations affecting the Legislature since its inception.

The Legislative Assembly first met on 22 September 1851, and from that date to 1870 met annually, usually in winter, from December to March. In 1868, the Assembly began to meet on the second Monday in January (Laws of Utah, 1867). The sessions were not to exceed forty days until the Constitution extended the sessions to sixty days. However, the 1896 session could last up to ninety days (Utah State Constitution, Article VI). The Legislature passed a law in 1992 changing the beginning of the sessions to the third Monday in January. In the Second Special Session of 1984 the duration of the sessions became forty-five days (Laws of Utah, 1984 & 1992). From 1820 to statehood, the Assembly held biennial sessions in even numbered years. After 1896, sessions were held in odd years and beginning in 1967 budget sessions in even years. In 1986 the legislature began to meet annually.

Bills, acts, resolution, claims, memorials, and petitions are official means of legislation. Claims to the state were for money due an individual or group. Memorials are pleadings for federal action, usually made to the U. S. Congress. Resolutions are position statements that do not have the weight of law. Citizens desiring the introduction of particular legislation initiated petitions. The procedure for introducing a bill, referring it to a committee, amending it, and voting on it changed over time. Starting in the 1960s, bills could be filed shortly before the start of the session. By the late 1960s other copies were sent for calculation of the fiscal impact and perhaps legal and technical corrections; this commentary was attached to the bill but not an official part of it. Procedures for analyzing bills changed widely over the years, moving from everything being done by the Legislature at large to being referred to more specialized committees or administrative staff, such as the Rules Committee, the Legislative Fiscal Analysts Office, and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Claims for money due an individual or group were occasionally numbered and treated as a bill. By 1905, they were automatically sent to the Board of Examiners after the first reading. The Board could then return the claim to the Legislature for consideration for an appropriation. Starting in 1917, all claims went directly to the Board of Examiners although an individual could still appeal a rejected claim to the Legislature.

The State Legislature did not enjoy as many legislative freedoms as the Assembly did during the territorial period. The constitution prohibited the Legislature from enacting any private or special laws such as: changing the names of persons or places, locating or changing county seats, regulating the jurisdiction and duties of Justices of the Peace, regulating the practice of courts of justice, assessing and collecting taxes. These are just a few of the enumerations of private laws forbidden to the Legislature (for a complete list see the Utah Constitution Art. VI Sec. 26). The disallowed laws were commonplace in the Territorial Assembly.

The Legislative Assembly consisted of a 13-member Council and a twenty-six member House of Representatives. The Council served for two-year terms and members of the House for one year. In 1870, terms for the House of Representatives were extended to two years and in 1896 the Constitution (Article VI) changed the Council to the Senate with four year terms. Population controlled the representation in both bodies. Before the first election, the governor called for a census of the citizens of the counties and districts of the territory. Based on the results of the census, the representation was split accordingly. At statehood the Constitution changed the number of Representatives and Senators: the House to forty-five members and Senate eighteen. Reapportionment was to be every ten years based on the federal census. The Legislature had the right to increase the numbers based on population. However, the Senate was never to exceed thirty members and the House was not to be less than twice nor greater than three times the number of Senators (Utah State Constitution, Article IX). In 1921, a reapportionment law (S.B. 2) designated legislative districts, fixing the boundaries and the number of Senators and Representatives: 1 Representative per 10,000 people and 1 Senator per 25,000. Legislation changed in 1931 to 1 Senator per 27,000 people. In 1972, a statute in the Special Session provided for seventy-five Representatives and twenty-nine Senators (Laws of Utah, 1972, H.B. 6)

In 1851, the territorial law called for annual August elections. The general election became biannual in 1870 (Laws of Utah, 1870) and the date of general elections moved to odd years in November in 1892 (Laws of Utah, 1892). In 1882, a federal laws known as the Edmunds Bill, created the Utah Commission. The Edmunds Bill declared it illegal for a polygamist to hold an elected office and disenfranchised polygamists. The bill stated, "all the registration and election office of every description in the territory of Utah are hereby declared vacant," and the duties were placed in the hands of the federally appointed Utah Commission (The Edmunds Bill, 1882). The Commission held an election for new members of the Assembly on August 6, 1883. The Utah Commission authenticated each elected office of the Assembly. The Commission became defunct with statehood in 1896.

The Utah State Legislature is a bicameral unit; it consists of the House of Representatives and Senate. Each legislative body elects it own leadership and is responsible for determining rule of proceedings. The Senate leadership embodies a president, majority leader, majority whip, assistant majority whip, a minority leader, minority whip, assistant minority whip, and minority caucus whip. The House leadership consists of the Speaker of the House, majority leader, majority whip, assistant majority whip, minority leader, minority whip, and assistant minority whip. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President are the only positions which have been constant since 1851. The Legislature also has the power to create special commissions and task forces to serve specific purposes, e.g., The Little Hoover Commission (1965), Legislative Salary Commission (1983), The Utah Centennial Commission (1988), and many others.

The Legislature controls staff offices that aid in the legislative process. The Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst was created in 1975. The office gives recommendations to the Legislature on fiscal, operational, and strategic policy issues. Legislative Printing was established in 1975 and is responsible for providing printing, typesetting and graphic services to the Legislature, its staff offices, and other state agencies. The Legislative Auditor General's Office was created in 1975. This office reviews and evaluates state programs to determine if they are successful and operate as efficiently as possible. The final staff office is the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. Prior to 1983, this office was spilt. The official creation date of the Legislative Counsel Office was 1947, and Legislative Research was created in 1975. The Legislative Research and General Counsel staff provides research and legal staff assistance to the Legislature. This includes preparing committee reports, maintaining a legislative research library, serving as legal counsel to the Legislature and various other duties as stated in the Laws of Utah, 1983.