Minnesota State Legislature

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Minnesota State Legislature

Seal of Minnesota.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 6, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Website
Senate President:   Sandra Pappas (DFL)
House Speaker:  Kurt Daudt (R)
Majority Leader:   Thomas Bakk (DFL) (Senate),
Joyce Peppin (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   David Hann (R) (Senate),
Paul Thissen (DFL) (House)
Members:  67 (Senate), 134 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art IV, Minnesota Constitution
Salary:   $31,140.90 + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
134 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
67 seats (Senate)
134 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Minnesota Legislature subcommittee has control
The Minnesota Legislature is the state legislature of Minnesota. It is a bicameral legislature, consisting of the lower Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota State Senate. Former Governor Jesse Ventura advocated the idea of changing the legislature to a unicameral system while he was in office, but the concept did not obtain widespread support.

The Legislature is located at the Minnesota Capitol in Saint Paul.

As of May 2015, Minnesota is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: Minnesota House of Representatives, Minnesota State Senate, Minnesota Governor


Early on in the state's history, the legislature had direct control over the city charters that set the groundwork for governments in municipalities across the state. In the early period, many laws were written for specific cities. The practice was outlawed in 1881, though attempts were still made. For instance, the long-standing Minneapolis Park Board and the city's Library Board were both created by the legislature in the next several years. The Minnesota Constitution was amended in 1896 to give cities direct control over their own charters.

In 1913, Minnesota legislators began to be elected on nonpartisan ballots. Nonpartisanship was an historical accident that occurred when a bill to provide for no party elections of judges and city and county officers was amended to include the Legislature in the belief that it would kill the bill. Legislators ran and caucused as "Liberals" or "Conservatives" roughly equivalent in most years to Democratic or Farmer Labor (later Democratic-Farmer-Labor) and Republican, respectively. In 1974, House members again ran with party designation. In 1976, Senate members again ran with party designation.

In 1984, the Legislature ordered that all gender-specific pronouns be removed from the state laws. After two years of work, the rewritten laws were adopted. Only 301 of 20,000 pronouns were feminine. "His" was changed 10,000 times and "he" was changed 6,000 times.

The state constitution limits the number of days the legislature can meet in a biennium to a total of 120 days. On March 29, 2010, the Minnesota Legislature established a new record for most legislative days in session during a decade. The new record of 582 days set by the 82nd-86th Legislatures supersedes the previous record of 581 legislative days set between 1971 and 1980 in the 67th through 71st Legislatures.[1]

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Minnesota
Partisan breakdown of the Minnesota legislature from 1992-2013

Minnesota State Senate: From 1992 to 2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Minnesota State Senate for 20 years while the Republicans were the majority for two years. The Minnesota State Senate is one of 16 state Senates that were Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992 and 2013. For the final year of the study, Minnesota was under a Democratic trifecta.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state Senates from 1992 to 2013.

Minnesota House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Minnesota State House of Representatives for 12 years while the Republicans were the majority for 10 years. For the final year of the study, Minnesota was under a Democratic trifecta.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican state Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Senate and the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1992 to 2013. Partisan composition of Minnesota state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Minnesota state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Minnesota has been under divided government for the entirety of the study (1992-2012) until the state elected a Democratic trifecta in 2012. Minnesota also ranked in the top-5 of the SQLI ranking for the entirety of the study, reaching its lowest ranking (5th) in four separate years. The state hit the top spot twice, in 2011 and 2012, under divided government.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 3.14
Chart displaying the partisanship of Minnesota government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).


Article IV of the Minnesota Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 12 of Article IV states that the Legislature is not to meet in regular session for more than 120 legislative days in each two-year period between legislative elections. Section 12 also does not allow the Legislature to meet in regular session after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year. Within these limits, Section 12 allows the Legislature to decide its meeting dates by law.

As such, MN Statute 3.011 establishes that on odd numbered years the legislature must convene on the first Monday in January, unless that lands on January 1, in which case the legislature must convene by the first Wednesday after the first Monday. The legislature is required to set its own date for even numbered years.

Section 12 of Article IV states that the Governor of Minnesota can call special sessions of the Legislature on extraordinary occasions.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is projected to be in session from January 6 through May 18.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include how to manage a $1 billion surplus, a possible gasoline tax increase, road and bridge maintenance, education funding and the state health care exchange.[2]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from February 25 to May 19.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included passing a bonding bill, how to use a projected $800 million surplus, heating costs, the minimum wage and bullying.[3][4]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 to May 20.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included a tax bill, establishing a health care exchange, same-sex marriage, education funding, gun control, and oil fracking.[5]

Tax increase

A bill designed to generate $2.1 billion in new revenue passed the Senate 36-30 and the House 69-65 on May 20, 2013. Governor Mark Dayton signed the tax bill into law on May 23, 2013. This legislation sponsored by Senator Rod Skoe and Representative Ann Lenczewski increased cigarette taxes by $1.60 per pack and created a higher income tax rate for upper-income earners. The bill created a tax rate of 9.85 percent for individuals earning $150,000 per year and couples earning $250,000 per year. Increased revenue was intended to fund an expansion of the Mayo Clinic, assist in building a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings and fill a $627 million budget deficit.[6][7]

Critics of the tax increase expressed concerns about negative impacts on the state economy. "The bill says the state can spend your money better that you can. This is not a good bill. We are going in the wrong direction. We should be looking at how we can decrease the tax burden," argued Representative Kelby Woodard.[6] Representative Bob Barrett argued against the income tax increase for upper-income earners. "We will now have the fourth-highest income tax rate in the country, and when you look how far down the ranks it goes we are second highest. That will have an impact on our economy, especially since we have border states with lower taxes," said Barrett.[6]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 24 to May 10.


In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 4 to May 23.

Session highlights

Government shutdown

Minnesota's 2011 legislative session was marked by a 20-day government shutdown that saw state parks and highway rest stops shuttered, 22,000 state employees laid off, road construction projects stopped and even an inability for beer vendors to restock their product due to expired state licenses.[8] The shutdown, Minnesota's second in six years, resulted after Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature failed to agree on a budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal biennium. Dayton demanded $1.8 billion in new revenues in the form of new taxes on the state's high earners, while Republicans insisted the state's $5 billion budget deficit be made up solely through spending cuts. As a result, with the exception of some critical services, Minnesota's government officially shut down when the previous fiscal year's budget expired on July 1.

Ultimately, the conflict ended in compromise. In an agreement signed on July 20, Dayton agreed to give up his request for tax increases, while Republicans were forced to agree to $1.4 billion more in spending than they wanted. Commentators on both sides criticized the deal, under which a significant portion of the deficit was funded by borrowing or withholding aid payments to school districts. The lack of a long-term solution to Minnesota's persistent budget problems means that legislators, in the absence of significantly improved revenues, can expect to see the problem recur during the next budget-making session in 2013.

During the shutdown, a minor controversy surrounded 138 legislators who continued to accept pay during the shutdown after 62 of their colleagues and Governor Mark Dayton refused to do so. Ultimately, 65 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans chose to cash their checks.[9]


In 2010, the Legislature was in session from February 4 to March 17.

Role in state budget

See also: Minnesota state budget and finances
Minnesota on Horizontal-Policypedia logo-color.png
Check out Policypedia articles about policy in your state on:

The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[10][11]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in May and June of the year preceding the start of the new biennium.
  2. State agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held from September through December.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature on the fourth Tuesday in January (this deadline is extended to the third Tuesday in February for a newly elected governor).
  5. The legislature typically adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The biennium begins on July 1 of odd-numbered years.

Minnesota is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[11]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget proposal. Likewise, the legislature is legally required to adopt a balanced budget.[11]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Minnesota was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[12]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[13] According to the report, Minnesota received a grade of D+ and a numerical score of 64, indicating that Minnesota was "lagging" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[13]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Minnesota was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[14]


See also: Redistricting in Minnesota

The Legislature handles redistricting, with the Governor holding veto power. Each chamber has its own redistricting committee, with a joint committee of two Republicans and two Democrats from each chamber.

2010 census

Minnesota received its local census data on March 16, 2011. The state's population increased 7.8 percent, even though four of the five most populated cities showed slight decreases in population; only Rochester (pop. 106,769, up 24.4 percent) showed growth.[15]

At the time of redistricting, Republicans controlled the Legislature, and Democrats the governorship; redistricting was expected to favor Republicans as Democrats held numerous underrepresented districts. Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the legislative plan on May 19, 2011. In June 2011, a panel created by the Minnesota Supreme Court took over the process when it heard lawsuits over the matter, even though the Legislature's deadline of February 2012 had not yet come up. On February 21, 2012, the panel released a final map, pairing 30 incumbents in the House and 16 in the Senate.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Minnesota legislature are paid $31,140.90/year. Senators receive $96/day per diem while representatives receive $66/day. The rates are set by the legislature.[16]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Minnesota legislators assume office the first day of biennial (2-year) session.[17] Minnesota law provides that: "The legislature shall meet at the seat of government on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each odd-numbered year. When the first Monday in January falls on January 1, it shall meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday. It shall also meet when called by the governor to meet in special session."[18]


The Minnesota Senate is the upper house in the Minnesota Legislature. There are 67 members. Each Senate district in the state includes an A and B House district (e.g. Senate district 32 contains House districts 32A and 32B). The Minnesota Constitution forbids a House district to divide a Senate district. Before the 1960s, Senators were apportioned by county, resulting in the underrepresentation of those in cities. From statehood through 1972, the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota served as President of the Senate. In 1972, the voters approved a constitutional amendment that provided for the senate to elect the president from among its members effective January 1973.

Members are usually elected to four year terms except when districts are redrawn after the census, when they are elected to a two year term. Each member represents an average of 79,163 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[19] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 73,425.[20]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 39
     Republican Party 28
Total 67

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Minnesota State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Minnesota State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Minnesota House of Representatives is the lower house in the Minnesota State Legislature. There are 134 members elected to two-year terms, twice the number of members in the Minnesota Senate. Each member represents an average of 39,582 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[21] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 36,713.[22] Each senate district is divided in half and given the suffix A or B (i.e. House district 32B is geographically within Senate district 32).

Following the 2004 election, a significant Republican majority of 81–53 was reduced to 68–66. In 2006, the tide turned even further, with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) gaining even more seats. Following the 2010 election, the DFL lost the chamber, winning 62 seats while the Republicans took 72.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 62
     Republican Party 72
Total 134

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Minnesota State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Minnesota State House.PNG

Joint legislative committees

See also: Public policy in Minnesota

The Minnesota State Legislature has no joint standing committees. It does have a number of commissions and task forces.[23]

See also

External links


  1. Smart Politics, "Hard at Work? Minnesota Legislature Sets Record for Decade-Long Days in Session," April 4, 2010
  2. Daily Globe, "Lawmakers face long list of issues," January 4, 2015
  3. Twin Cities Daily Planet, "Previewing the 2014 Minnesota legislative session: Issues and contrasting agendas," February 24, 2014. Accessed March 6, 2014
  4. KXLT, "Minnesota Legislature now in session," February 25, 2014
  5. minnesota.publicradio.org, "Minnesota Legislature preview: 10 issues to watch," January 4, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Minnesota House of Representatives, "Property tax relief, new fourth tier rate highlight conferred tax bill," May 20, 2013
  7. Wall Street Journal, "States' Rift on Taxes Widens," May 23, 2013
  8. CNNMoney, "Minnesota shutdown: It's over," July 20, 2011
  9. Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "138 legislators are collecting paychecks during shutdown," July 10, 2011
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  12. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  14. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Minnesota's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," March 16, 2011
  16. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  17. Office of the Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota, "Minnesota Statutes," Chapter 3, Section 3.05
  18. Office of the Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota, "Minnesota Statutes," Chapter 3, Section 3.011
  19. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  20. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  21. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  22. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  23. Minnesota Legislature, "Joint Departments and Commissions," accessed June 23, 2014