Skip to main content

The Minnesota Legislature


Minnesota Constitution provides: To be elected a state senator or representative, a person must be a qualified voter, 21 years old, a resident of Minnesota for one year, and a resident of the legislative district for six months immediately preceding the election (Article IV).

Terms: Senator: two or four years; Representative: two years. Senators are elected in years ending in 0, 2, and 6. The two-year term at the beginning of each decade is due to redistricting. Legislative district boundaries change as a result of the census.

Compensation: $31,140 annually; round trips between home and state capitol; per diem allowance for living expenses while conducting legislative business outside of their district.

Membership: The state of Minnesota is divided into 67 senate districts, each of which is divided into two, creating the 134 house districts. Each senate district elects one senator and each house district elects one representative.

Functions and powers: The principal legal task of the Legislature is to pass laws and to adopt a state budget, both of which affect a wide range of state programs and resources.

The Legislature also proposes amendments to the state constitution to be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters, elects regents of the University of Minnesota, and performs legislative oversight or review. The Senate has additional authority to confirm certain gubernatorial appointments.

The Legislature possesses a judicial function. It judges the election and qualifications of its members, may punish or expel members for contempt or disorderly behavior, and may impeach or remove members of the executive and judicial branches from office.

Each legislative body has a rules committee that directs the operating procedures of that body.The Legislature conducts business under the guidelines provided by the rules of that house, rules adopted jointly, state statutes, the state constitution, and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure.

Organization: Members of the Minnesota Legislature are nominated and elected in affiliation with political parties. Currently all Minnesota legislators are affiliated with either the Democratic- Farmer-Labor (DFL) or Republican (R) parties. The legislators affiliated with each party in each body make up a “caucus,” e.g., House DFL caucus or House Republican caucus. The Republican caucus currently holds a majority in the House and the DFL caucus currently holds a majority in the Senate.

Convening the Legislature: On the first day of a regular session both houses of the Legislature convene at noon. The lieutenant governor, having already taken the oath of office, calls the Senate to order and presides until a president is elected and has taken the oath of office. The House is called to order by the secretary of state, who presides over that body until a speaker is elected and has taken the oath of office. After convening, the oath of office is administered to all members of
each house.

Presiding officers and leadership: Senate members elect the president of the senate from among their members, and the House members elect the speaker of the house from among their members. The president presides over the Senate and the speaker of the house presides over the House. The speaker also presides over joint sessions of the House and Senate.

Each body elects the top staff members. 

Each caucus elects a leader, who serves as a leading spokesperson for caucus policies. 


Committees: The House and Senate have many committees that hold hearings on bills related to the topics assigned to them. The number of committees in each house and the number of members serving on each committee varies from session to session. In addition to the work they do during each legislative session, committees may hold informational hearings between legislative sessions.

In the House, the speaker appoints members for each committee, including a member to chair the committee, a Vice Chair, and a lead representative from the minority caucus. In the Senate, a committee names the chairs of each committee. The majority and minority caucuses decide among themselves which of their members will serve on each committee.

Regular sessions: The Minnesota Legislature convenes in regular session each odd-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January. Although it is not required to do so, the Legislature also meets in even-numbered years, starting on a date agreed to by both bodies, usually in January or February. In total, between the two years, the Legislature may not meet for more than 120 legislative days and may not meet in regular session after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year.

Each two-year term of the House is considered one legislative session, also known as one “biennium.” For this reason, the Legislature may take action in the second year on bills that were not passed in the first year, without having to reintroduce them. Bills are numbered consecutively in order of introduction through both years.

Special sessions: The governor may call the Legislature into a special session at any time. Special sessions become necessary when legislative action is needed to meet emergencies or when legislative work is unfinished at the end of a regular session. The governor does not have the power to limit the length of a special session.

Deadlines: Bills may be introduced at any time, but must meet certain benchmarks in the process in order to remain viable. There are usually three deadlines. By the “first deadline,” a bill must have passed through all of the required policy committees in one of the bodies. By the “second deadline,” its companion must have passed through all of the policy committees in the other body. By the “third deadline,” an omnibus appropriations bill and its companion must have passed through the required finance divisions in both bodies.