Web site: www.leg.state.mn.usSenate Information, 231 State Capitol, St. Paul 55155, (651)296-0504House Information, 175 State Office Building, St. Paul 55155, (651)296-2146
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).
Term: Senator—four years; representative—two years. Exception: Senators are elected for a two-year term to begin a new decade when redistricting occurs and district boundaries change.
Compensation: $31,140 annually; round trips between home and state capitol; per diem allowance for living expenses during session.
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 is entitled to elect one senator and each house district is entitled to elect one representative.
Organization: Members of the Minnesota Legislature are nominated and elected with party designation. Currently Minnesota legislators are affiliated with two of the state’s three major political parties: Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) and Republican (R). The DFL caucus organized the senate and the house during the 2007 session.
Presiding officers: 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 shares with the speaker of the house the chairmanship of the legislative coordinating commission. The speaker of the house is both a voting member of the house and the presiding officer. The speaker also presides over joint sessions of the house and senate.
Senator James Metzen is president of the senate. Representative Margaret Anderson Kelliher is speaker of the house. Each house elects top staff members. The secretary of the senate, Patrick Flahaven, and the chief clerk of the house, Albin Mathiowetz, are the highest ranking staff officers in each body.
Committees: The speaker appoints committee chairs and members for each committee. Lead minority representatives are appointed to serve on specific committees with chairs and vice chairs. The speaker works closely with the house majority and becomes a leading spokesperson for caucus policies.
In the senate, the chair of the committee on rules and administration–normally the leader of the majority group–has similar power. A senate committee names the committee members and chairs.
The committee system is a vital component of the legislative machinery. The volume of legislation pending before a single session is too great to permit all legislators to work closely with all proposals. Committees hear testimony from proponents and opponents of legislation before they make recommendations to the full legislature. A committee may decide the fate of any legislative proposal. After study, hearing, research, and deliberation, a committee may amend, recommend passage, refer to another committee, or table a bill.
The number of committees in each house and the number of members serving on each committee varies from session to session as state concerns and problems dictate. In addition to the standing committees which operate during each session, some committees continue to study specific problems during the legislative interim to report findings to the next legislative session.
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 has been elected and has taken the oath of office. The house is called to order by the secretary of state, who presides over that body as its convening authority 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.
Special sessions: The legislature may be called into special session at any time by the governor. 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 is the only official empowered to call a special session. The governor does not have the power to limit the length or scope of the session.
Functions and powers: The principal legal task of the legislature is to make law by which public policy is established. Legislative activity affects a wide range of state programs and resources including agriculture, conservation, crime prevention, consumer protection, contracts, education, economic development, elections, environment, finance, forestry, health, highways, human rights, insurance, labor relations, natural resources, property, pollution control, recreation, safety, taxation, transportation, utilities, unemployment compensation, veterans’ affairs, and worker’s compensation.
Additional legislative functions include proposing amendments to the state constitution for approval by the electorate, electing regents of the University of Minnesota, confirming certain gubernatorial appointments (senate) and performing legislative oversight or review.
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 from office members of the executive and judicial branches.
Each legislative body has a rules committee that directs the operating procedures of the legislature. The legislature conducts business under the guidelines provided by the rules that the two houses adopt, their joint rules, Minnesota Statutes, the state constitution, and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure.
Regular sessions: The Minnesota Legislature convenes in regular session each odd-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January. The 1972 flexible session amendment to Article IV of the constitution authorized the legislature to meet in regular session in both years of the biennium, for a total of 120 legislative days, providing that the legislature cannot meet after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year.
The temporary adjournment between the session of the first year and the second year of the biennium is not a final adjournment, as the biennial session is considered to be one continuous session. For this reason, the journal pages of both houses are numbered consecutively through both years, and bills are numbered consecutively in order of introduction through both years.
Bills that have not become law or been defeated by legislative action or vetoed by the end of the first half of the session are still available for possible action in the second half of the session. This means standing committees may hear such bills in the interim recess and make recommendations on their passage.
Passage of laws: All revenue bills (tax measures) must originate in the house. All other matters may originate in either the house or the senate. There is no stated time schedule; speed is often related to the legislative support a proposal gathers.
Committee meetings are open to the public, and anyone wishing to speak for or against proposals being considered is given a chance to be heard. The house and senate index offices in the capitol keep a file of bills by number, and anyone may visit the House Index office or the Senate Information office to obtain a copy of a bill.
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