Through the first four weeks of the 2013 session, Idaho lawmakers have introduced 137 bills. That's 25 percent below the five-year average.
Mike Nugent, head of the Research and Legislation Division that drafts all session bills, said the last time so few bills were introduced by this point was 2009, during the height of the recession. That year, 135 bills were printed during the first month.
Almost 40 percent of the Legislature turned over in the November election. The Senate has 11 new members - including nine who previously served in the House - while the House has 30 newbies, out of 70 total.
"They're trying to figure things out and we're helping them along," said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star. "There's a lot of informational meetings going on. And there's still a lot of concern about the national economy and what's happening back East (in Washington, D.C.); I think that adds to it."
Another factor, he said, is that freshmen are taking the time to get things right before moving forward.
"When I first got here, it was do a (draft bill), get it wrong, do another, get it wrong," Moyle said. "Now, more of them are doing their homework, which is a good thing. We don't have the expense of printing a bill and we end up with a better piece of legislation."
Nugent said most costs associated with drafting a new bill these days are fixed, such as personnel or office space. His division has 13 employees; they draft about 1,000 bills per session, but the incremental cost isn't much different whether they do 900 drafts or 1,100.
"It's not like we work on a piece-rate basis," he said.
And with increased use of the Internet, the cost of printing bills is dropping because most people now prefer to look at legislation online.
The low level of legislative staffing also keeps the bill costs down.