As a kid, I thought teachers lived at school and slept in their classrooms, but I could never figure out what they did during the summer when school was out. For many, a similar — but maybe less naive — principle exists for legislators: we see them constantly at the Capitol during the general legislative session, but what do they do once it’s over?
Just like the myth that teachers don’t work during their summer break, from March through December, legislators are actively studying issues and planning for the next session. Legislators meet throughout their “break” to learn about issues and plan what’s next during the interim session. Additionally, Utah legislators are part-time, so many of them also return to full-time jobs when the general legislative session ends, yet they still make time for the interim sessions and often many other meetings each month.
Interim came to be due to time constraints. During the general legislative session, which goes for 45 days between January and March, legislators are laser-focused on getting bills through. This includes proposing, debating, amending…some more proposing, debating, and amending…and eventually passing laws. Their time is stretched so thin that sometimes they aren’t even able to address all of the proposed bills.
But legislators need to learn about issues and study potential solutions, to begin planning legislation for the upcoming year, and to hear from constituents. Enter, interim.
While legislators meet throughout the year to discuss many issues, official interim meetings happen about once a month outside of the general legislative session. Each legislator is assigned to an interim committee, or two, which focus on specific topics (like transportation, natural resources, or energy). Then, during the monthly meetings, each committee holds a public session where they address citizen concerns, new issues, potential bills for next year, and recently passed laws. They will also call in experts, organizations, businesses, and others to give reports on relevant topics.
It might not have all of the fast-paced thrills of the general legislative session, where bills can move a mile a minute, but it is just as important to be aware of what’s happening during interim. In interim, you get a preview of what legislator’s top concerns are, what bills might come up during the general legislative session, and what issues are cropping up throughout Utah.
All interim meetings are open to the public, which means you can attend committee meetings and sometimes even speak during them. Even if you’re not near the Capitol, you can keep up with interim by watching or listening to various committee meeting sessions.