McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

During California’s last legislative session, the 2018 legislative session, the Legislature and Governor enacted 1,016 new laws – most of which took effect on January 1, 2019. This particular statistic raises the age old question – Is the California Legislature too much of a bill factory?

I will leave the answer to that question, and whether the answer is good or bad, to another day. In this post, I’ll compare that piece of data to those of other states and let you decide on an answer to the question.

More than 15,000 bills were enacted in the fifty states in 2018. Just a few states were not in session and did not enact any bills. Now, according to news media reports and other sources, I put together a sampling of states that enacted new laws in 2018, and the total number of new laws. Note that no state was close to California’s total.

  • Michigan – 689 new laws
  • Kentucky – 624 new laws
  • Tennessee – 612 new laws
  • Illinois – 595 new laws
  • New York – 522 new laws
  • Utah – 486 new laws
  • Colorado – 424 new laws
  • Arizona – 347 new laws
  • Massachusetts – 343 new laws
  • New Jersey – 329 new laws
  • Washington – 306 new laws
  • Wisconsin – 241 new laws
  • Maine – 200 new laws
  • Florida – 193 new laws
  • Pennsylvania – 179 new laws
  • North Carolina – 162 new laws
  • Oregon – 153 new laws
  • Alaska – 145 new laws
  • Kansas – 118 new laws
  • Ohio – 115 new laws
  • Minnesota – 100 new laws
  • Georgia -15 new laws

It is obvious from this data that California has enacted many more new laws than other states. However, 2018 was a high water mark for Governor Brown’s administration. California has averaged 700-800 enactments pretty consistently.

One other interesting data point is the percentage of bills that become law in California. In very broad terms, the California Legislature introduces about 2,200 bills a year, and roughly 40% of those bills become law each year. That’s a pretty high percentage of bills getting enacted in comparison to the number of bills actually introduced. At the federal level, for example, roughly 2-3% of the introduced bills actually become law. So not only does the California Legislature introduce a lot of bills, but they also get a very high percentage of those bills becoming law each year.

You can a full transcript of today’s podcast here.