Minnesota State Legislature

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Minnesota State Legislature

Seal of Minnesota.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 8, 2013
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Michelle Fischbach (R)
House Speaker:  Kurt Zellers (R)
Majority Leader:   David Senjem (R) (Senate),
Matt Dean (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Thomas Bakk (D) (Senate),
Paul Thissen (D) (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 6, 2012
67 seats (Senate)
134 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
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 7 Democratic state government trifectas.


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 29th, 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 1971-80 in the 67-71st 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 1992-2013, 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 was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. 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 State 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 have 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 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Minnesota state government(1992-2013).PNG


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 state states that the Governor of Minnesota can call special sessions of the Legislature on extraordinary occasions.


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through 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.[2]

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 increases cigarette taxes by $1.60 per pack and creates a higher income tax rate for upper-income earners. The bill creates a tax rate of 9.85 percent for individuals earning $150,000 per year and couples earning $250,000 per year. Increased revenue will be used 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.[3][4]

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.[3] 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.[3]


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 through 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, perhaps worst of all, beer vendors unable to restock their product due to expired state licenses.[5] 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.[6]


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


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.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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." [11]


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.[12] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 73,425.[13]

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

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.[14] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 36,713.[15] 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

Joint legislative committees

The Minnesota State Legislature has no joint standing committees. It does have a number of commissions and task forces.[16]

External links