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Minnesota Legislative Reference Library - Library News Items


New Legislator quiz

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 18:00:00 GMT

The Library's legislator quiz--developed last year for new Library staff--proved to be very popular with staff, lobbyists, and legislators!  The quiz has been updated and improved for the new session -  you can now select all current legislators or focus on either the House or the Senate.

Play the quiz!



Date: 01/05/2017.

A record that will be hard to beat!

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:00:00 GMT

(image) Representative Lyndon Carlson surpassed a number of records today!  He is now the longest serving House member - ever. He is also the longest serving member in the history of the Minnesota Legislature.

Three former legislators are tied for second-longest-serving legislator. Phyllis Kahn is the second longest serving member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and is tied in length of service with two legislators who served in both bodies--Anton J. Rockne and Carl Iverson.  (Anton J. Rockne has the longest Senate tenure.)  Check out the length of service for all legislators including those who have served just one day!



Date: 01/03/2017.

Get Out the Vote Posters

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 19:00:00 GMT


Every four years, students in a graphic design course at the University of Minnesota create Get Out the Vote posters.  The posters are displayed at two University libraries--Wilson Library on the Minneapolis West Bank campus and McGrath Library on the St. Paul campus--but this year they are also on display at the Legislative Reference Library.  

Professor James Boyd Brent described the project, "They were asked to direct their posters towards an undergraduate student audience and were also asked to emphasize the importance of voting, rather than trying to encourage people to vote one way or the other. I did feel that there was some leeway, though, for students to subtly cite or refer to a pressing social justice issue."

Each poster is a three-layered handmade screen print. Professor Brent says, "the screen printing process enables a vivid handmade look to be part of the aesthetic appeal of the posters. "  The poster to the left was designed by University student Jade Mulcahy.

The posters will be on display through November 10th.  Please stop in to see them!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 10/27/2016.

Notable Minnesota Documents

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Minnesota is usually well represented in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Notable Document Awards each year; this year is no exception with four award winners from Minnesota. 

The awards are sponsored by NCSL's Legislative Research Librarians staff section.  "The award recognizes excellence in documents that explore topics of interest to legislators and staff, and present substantive material in an outstanding format."   The Minnesota award winners are:

Flame Retardants and Firefighter Exposure and Health.  Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Surveillance and Assessment Section, 2016. 

A 2015 Minnesota law required the Minnesota Department of Health, in consultation with the State Fire Marshall, to prepare a report about flame-retardant chemicals and the health and safety effects of exposures, particularly in firefighting settings. With a review of state, federal, and international regulations, a summary of exposure and health findings, and a comprehensive literature review, this document presents a wealth of information on this issue, an issue that has not been studied elsewhere.

Minnesota State Capitol: Overview of the Fine Art.  Minnesota Historical Society, 2015.

Each piece of artwork featured in this guide is accompanied by a color photograph, a note about its location in the Capitol, the date installed, a brief description of the piece, and a biographical note on the author. 

United States Constitutional Amendment Process: Legal Principles for State Legislatures.  (By Matt Gehring)  Minnesota House Research Department, 2016.

This report serves as a "reference guide for finding and understanding applicable law related to amending the U.S. Constitution."  

United States Constitutional Amendments: Minnesota's Legislative History. (By Matt Gehring)  Minnesota House Research Department, 2016.

Of the 33 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution submitted to the states by Congress, 27 have been ratified by three-fourths of the states; Minnesota has ratified 18.  This report outlines the amendment process, the procedural issues, and Minnesota's amendment ratification history.

Date: 09/13/2016.

A List is Not Always the Whole Story

Tue, 10 May 2016 19:00:00 GMT

It’s easy to create a list of bills by author in the Legislature’s bill tracking system.  How many of them became law?  The bills that became law include a number in the “Law” column, indicating that they passed and received a chapter number in the annual Session Laws. But the list of ‘laws passed’ is not complete – not because the system doesn’t work correctly, but because it is difficult to account for all the ways that language from a legislator might become law. Some of the bills could have been incorporated into larger bills, such as an omnibus bill.  For example, Rep. Kim Norton was the author of HF512 in 2015, establishing a child support work group.  That bill did not pass, but the language was incorporated into SF1458, and passed into law, Chapter 71 of 2015. Many times, when a separate bill is wrapped into a larger bill, a see reference will be listed on the status screen – but that doesn’t always work.  In 2015, Rep. Norton introduced HF39, designating Highway 14 as the Black and Yellow Trail.  If you check the bill status system, it appears to be introduced, referred to committee, going no further.  But it passed! (See article 3 of Chapter 287, and a photo of a sign on the completed trail.) It received a hearing and was included in the Omnibus transportation bill that year, even though there was no “see” reference in the bill tracking system. As a legislator, what if you introduce a bill that is never heard in committee, yet it passes in the other body and is incorporated into an omnibus bill during conference committee?  Is that your bill that passed? Sometimes a legislator introduces a bill identical to one or many other bills - clone bills.  If your bill is not the one that passes, is it legitimate to still consider the bill as one you have passed?  Scott Magnuson, long-time Senate employee and legislation-watcher, has an opinion.  He says no.  The chief author of the bill that passes is the one who has done the hard part of taking it through all the committees.  "If you are the chief author, you have to be passionate," Scott said.  Rep. Norton agrees with Scott that clones or bills that are filed as a courtesy and were never heard should not be claimed as passing a bill. On the other hand, she noted, “Sometimes an author researches an issue, files a bill, and gets a Senate author--but because of committee budgets or partisan politics, it may not be heard. If heard, it may not be included in the House Omnibus bill...BUT your Senate author may have better luck getting it included on the Senate side and it eventually passes. I believe that House author can/should take credit for that bill.” A list of laws each member passed also doesn’t account for the work of legislators in committees and in floor session, where they track other members’ bills for language that may harm their districts, or craft amendments that help their districts. While talking about the difficulty of definitive tracking, Scott Magnuson had a recommendation for every legislator who wants to carefully account for their work each session.  Get a really good staff person who will track it for you, year by year. Robbie LaFleur. Date: 05/11/2016.[...]

A Barber to the First Legislators?

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:00:00 GMT

(image) In the midst of today's serious floor debates, a little history break:

In today's "This Day in Minnesota History" page, the Minnesota Historical Society featured James Goodhue, founder of the first Minnesota newspaper, The Minnesota Pioneer (forerunner of today's Pioneer Press). It prompted a tweet by Vic Thorstenson, "Unfortunately, for Mr. Goodhue, he looks like he also encountered the first-ever barber in MN territory."  That reminded me of an article I recently saw about a barber who practiced in the Central House Hotel in 1849, while looking for information on all the sites in which the Legislature has met. The very first territorial legislature met in the Central House Hotel in St. Paul, in 1849.  Maybe Mr. Goodhue, and many of the very first legislators, frequented this barber? This is text from an ad in Mr. Goodhue's newspaper.

"William Armstrong, a Castillian by birth, continues to smooth the countenances of the male public at Central House, amputating the beard with the utmost facility, upon new and scientific principles.  He also performs the operation of hair-cutting and hair dressing, in the latest fashion and most approved style of the art.  Shampooing in the Asiatic method, as taught in Constantinople, is also his forte.  It will be his delight to render these operations as agreeable as possible without the aid of chloroform."

Blegen, Theodore C. "Minnesota Pioneer Life as Revealed in Newspaper Advertisements," Minnesota History, v. 7, no. 2, p. 99-121.

Robbie LaFleur. Date: 04/28/2016.

Tracking Bills: But What do all these Words MEAN?

Tue, 12 Apr 2016 19:00:00 GMT

(image) A recent caller to the Library asked for help with the "MyBills" tracking service. It wasn't an IT or system problem - whew. Instead, the person following many bills wanted to learn more about what the notifications meant.  "What does it mean if a bill is on the general register? What are general orders?"  Perfectly logical questions!

We've updated the MyBills page to help people understand the process, by adding links to important background documents from the House and Senate. 

MyBills House actions: General Register, Consent Calendar, Calendar for the Day, Supplemental Calendar for the Day, Fiscal Calendar, and Reports of Standing Committees. For background, see Legislative Procedure in the "Legislative Handbook" from the House Public Information Office.

MyBills Senate actions: General Orders, Consent Calendar, the Calendar, and Reports of Committees. For background, see "Inside the Minnesota Senate" from the Secretary of the Senate.

Here's another version of general orders -- in the historical image, "General Bosquet giving orders to his staff," from the Library of Congress photo archives.


Date: 04/13/2016.

Does the Legislature Pass Too Many Laws?

Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:00:00 GMT

(image) The Legislative Reference Library sometimes hears from people expressing a concern that too many laws are getting passed. “Why is the Legislature's answer to issues always more government”? As librarians, we don’t answer that sort of question philosophically!  But we can supply tips to help people better understand the process.

You have to pass a law to repeal a law

When you hear that the Minnesota Legislature has passed a certain number of laws in a session, it does not mean that every provision in those laws is a new law. When you look at a session law, you will see that it may be creating new laws – but it may also be amending existing laws or repealing laws – and often, a combination of all of the above. Here is an example of a “new” law from 2015 that is repealing two existing sections of Minnesota Statutes.

How many new laws are created compared to how many laws are repealed each year?

The laws that govern Minnesota are compiled into the Minnesota Statutes. The Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes provides this table to track law changes. Use the drop down box to view sessions back to 1994 to see how many MN Statutes were created (new), amended, or repealed in a particular legislative session.

Historical data on Session Laws passed

Here are links to the 80 session laws that passed during the 2015 Regular Session.

The number of session laws passed during each session of the Minnesota Legislature has dropped significantly during the past decades. Bar chart. Chart with numbers.

Remember, those statistics are the number of session laws passed, not the number of provisions within those session laws. A session law might be a single paragraph – or hundreds of pages.

The concern with passing too much legislation is long-standing.  Here is an interesting quote by Thomas Jefferson:

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), July 12, 1816 (Last quote in this compilation)

Robbie LaFleur. Date: 04/12/2016.

Tom Olmscheid Exhibit at the Library in the Minnesota Senate Building

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 19:00:00 GMT


As the new branch of the Legislative Reference Library in the Minnesota Senate Building began to take shape, it became clear there would be a large blank wall on one side of the new Library.  We started thinking of ways we could use this space--art exhibits maybe? 

A chance encounter with Tom Olmscheid, long-time former House photographer, solidified a plan for the first exhibit. Tom's collection of photographs he has taken of town halls on election days over a number of years seemed fitting for an election year.

Mary Lahammer interviewed Tom soon after the installation and featured it a few weeks ago on Almanac.  Scroll to 34 minutes to see the March 18th Almanac interview or come to the third floor of the Minnesota Senate Building to see Tom's photographs in person!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 03/31/2016.

Quick - Who's this Legislator?

Sun, 27 Mar 2016 19:00:00 GMT

The Library's talented programmer, Mike Schatz, put a quiz on our internal library page a while back to help new staff recognize our bosses - all the legislators.  During this busy week of 76 hearings (as calculated by lobbyist Gary Carlson, posted on Twitter), we thought we should share the fun quiz on our legislator database page.  Perhaps you are stuck waiting for a hearing, or have a break between hearings? Challenge your friends. 

Play the quiz


Date: 03/28/2016.

Previous Presidential Preference Primaries - A Timeline

Mon, 21 Mar 2016 19:00:00 GMT

The Minnesota Legislature has passed a presidential preference primary law three times; all were repealed.  Four presidential preference primaries have been held. 1913 - Governor Eberhart promoted the presidential primary in his inaugural speech in 1913, and the Legislature passed a law that year, Chapter 449. 1916 - The primary was held on March 14 (election results). Winners: Democrat, Woodrow Wilson; Prohibition, William Sulzer; Republican, Albert B. Cummins Two days before the election, the Duluth News Tribune wrote about the upcoming contest, including "The crazy quilt presidential primary has befuddled everybody from the rummy to the justices of the Supreme Court." In 1947, former Morning Star Tribune reporter Charles Cheney recalled the primary in The Story of Minnesota Politics: Highlights of Half a Century of Political Reporting. "Minnesota tried the presidential primary once, in 1916, and that was enough. It was a lot of grief and expense.... The 1917 Legislature repealed the presidential primary freak, and few tears were shed." 1917 - The law was repealed, Chapter 133. 1949 - A presidential primary was established by Chapter 433, approved April 14. 1952 - The primary was held on March 18 (election results). Winners: DFL, Hubert Humphrey; Republican, Harold Stassen G. Theodore Mitau wrote about the primary in his 1970 version of the textbook Politics in Minnesota. "Stassen had led in the Minnesota Republican presidential primary, and most of the state's convention delegates were officially pledged to him.  But a write-in campaign for Dwight D. Eisenhower, launched just a few days before the state primary, had resulted in what came to be called the "Minnesota miracle."  With almost none of the advance publicity Stassen had enjoyed, and without the approval of the national Eisenhower organization, the campaign was phenomenally successful; 108,692 voters took the trouble to write in Eisenhower's name on the ballot, while Stassen, whose name was printed thereon, received only 20,000 more votes, 129,076." 1956 - The primary was held on March 20 (election results). Winners: Democrat, Estes Kefauver; Republican, Dwight Eisenhower Minnesota Politics and Government, a 1999 textbook by Daniel Elazar, Virgina Gray and Wyman Spano, explained: "In the 1956 presidential primary the leaders of the DFL tried to deliver the state for Adlai Stevenson by virtually dictating to the rank-and-file DFLers that they vote for him in the name of party unity. The spontaneous reaction of the voters was to give Estes Kefauver the victory, a message pointed toward Hubert Humphrey."  See also: "Primary History '56 free-for-all contest had it all," by Jim Parsons, Star Tribune, Jan. 19, 1992. Entire chapters were devoted to this primary race in Coya Come Home: A Congresswoman's Journey by Gretchen Urnes Beito (Los  Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1990) and Hubert Humphrey: A Biography by Carl Solberg (St. Paul: Borealis Books, 2003). 1959 - The presidential primary law was repealed, Chapter 67.  Iric Nathanson wrote about the 1952 and 1956 primaries in a 2008 MinnPost article, "Political mischief: Minnesota's 1950s experiment with presidential primaries." About the repeal, he wrote, "The mainly Republican conservatives controlled the state Senate, and they moved first to vote repeal with only minimal debate.  But repeal was more controversial in the House, where the liberal caucus, composed of DFLers, was in control. There, a repeal vote was delayed when primary supporters, many of whom had backed Kefauver in 1956, pushed unsuccessful to conduct one more direct primary in 1960 before scuttling the 1949 law entirely. But now DFL leaders[...]

Former Speaker Martin Olav Sabo and Former Rep. Tom Berg at the Library

Sun, 13 Mar 2016 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Former state legislator, Minnesota House Speaker, and U. S. Congressman Martin Olav Sabo died yesterday.  Library staff remember Sabo as a user of the Legislative Reference Library through the years.

But in particular, we remember him fondly for a visit to the Library when he and former Representative Tom Berg came bearing wonderful pastries!  They had collaborated with several former legislators and staff to write the book, Minnesota's Miracle: Learning From the Government That Worked, by Tom Berg.  Shortly after the publication of the book, they brought pastries to thank Library staff for help with all of the research.  We were pleased to be given credit in the book – and honored to receive a visit from the two of them!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 03/14/2016.

State of the State Addresses Held Elsewhere in the State

Sun, 06 Mar 2016 18:00:00 GMT


Governor Mark Dayton's State of the State address is scheduled to be given at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center on March 9, 2016.  State of the State addresses are generally held in the Minnesota State Capitol, but that seemed an unlikely location this year given that most of the capitol building is closed for restoration.

It won't be the first time a governor has delivered a State of the State address away from the Capitol.  It's been held elsewhere eight other times--twice in Bloomington, twice in Rochester, once in St. Cloud, Hutchinson, and Winona, and once at the Governor's Residence.  All other State of the State addresses appear to have been held at the State Capitol. 

The Minnesota Constitution requires the Governor to address the Legislature each session, but as far as we can verify, Governor LeVander's 1969 message to the legislature was the first to be titled "State of the State."  The Library has collected most gubernatorial addresses since statehood:  Gubernatorial Addresses to the Minnesota Legislature "State of the State" and Inaugural Addresses, 1857-present.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 03/07/2016.

Legislative retirements and turnover

Sun, 10 Jan 2016 18:00:00 GMT

(image) There's been a recent flurry of legislative retirements!  The Library's new Legislative Retirements page has had four additions in the past two weeks -- Senator Kathy Sheran, Senator Roger Reinert, Senator Dave Thompson, and Senator John Pederson.  Others have announced their retirement plans and there will likely be more to come.

You may notice that many of the names on our retirements list are from the Senate.  It's too soon to tell if 2016 will be a landmark turnover year for the Senate or the House but we'll be sure to track statistics on legislative turnover as we've done since 1970.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 01/11/2016.

Minnesota Deer Population Management

Sun, 13 Sep 2015 19:00:00 GMT

(image) The Minnesota deer hunting season is just around the corner. During the 2015 legislative session, informational hearings were held to discuss the concerns of hunters regarding the declining deer herd in Minnesota. On April 17, 2015, the Legislative Audit Commission voted to direct the Legislative Auditor to evaluate the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) deer management process. The Legislative Auditor's report is scheduled to be released in early 2016.

The DNR completed new deer population goals for 40 of the 128 deer permit areas in the state but is postponing the remaining goal setting until the completion of the legislative audit. The completed Deer Population Goals were done in five blocks:

Superior Uplands Arrowhead: Minnesota Deer Population Goals

North Central Plains - Moraines: Minnesota Deer Population Goals

Pine Moraines: Minnesota Deer Population Goals

East Central Uplands: Minnesota Deer Population Goals

Sand Plain – Big Woods: Minnesota Deer Population Goals

According to the DNR, "As a result of this process, 85 percent of the 40 areas will be managed for populations higher than those experienced in 2014; the remaining will see no change." Additional deer population goal setting resources including Hunter and Landowner Survey Results and Deer Advisory Team Recommendations are available in the "2015 goal setting" section of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's Deer Management website.

David Schmidtke. Date: 09/14/2015.

Longest Serving House Members Ever!

Tue, 07 Jul 2015 19:00:00 GMT

(image) On July 13, 2015, Representative Phyllis Kahn and Representative Lyndon Carlson will surpass former Representative Willard Munger's record of 15,532 days as the longest serving House members in state history.  Both legislators began serving in the Minnesota House on January 2, 1973.

Three Minnesota legislators served even longer with a combination of House and Senate service.  Rep. Kahn and Rep. Carlson may surpass those records should they continue to serve into 2017.

Rep. Kahn and Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Texas are tied for the second-longest serving female state legislators in the nation, according to Katie Fischer Ziegler, Program Manager of the Women's Legislative Network of NCSL.  It'll be tough to beat the longest serving female legislator in the nation--Rep. Brynhild Haugland served for 52 years in the North Dakota House, from her election in 1938 until her retirement in 1990.  And even tougher to beat the longest serving state legislator--Senator Fred Risser has served in the Wisconsin Legislature for 58 years.

Thanks to Tom Olmscheid for the use of his photograph of the two legislators taken during the 2015 legislative session.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 07/08/2015.

Legislative Librarians in Other States

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 19:00:00 GMT

(image) (image) Legislative librarians at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library are fortunate to have colleagues in most of the fifty states.  Recently, two Minnesota library staff were able to visit other legislative libraries on trips eastward.  I visited Evelyn Andrews, Senate Librarian, at the beautiful Senate Library in Pennsylvania in October. 

In June, Minnesota legislative librarian, Alyssa Novak Jones, stopped in at the North Carolina General Assembly Library.  Alyssa met with Cathy Martin, the chief librarian, and her staff.

We occasionally get to meet fellow legislative librarians in-person at National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) professional development seminars or legislative summits, but our primary contact is electronically through NCSL's Legislative Research Librarians Staff Section listserv.   

Last summer, Minnesota hosted legislative librarians from around the United States as part of NCSL's 2014 Legislative Summit.  We didn't want our colleagues who could not attend to miss out so we shared our experiences through a blog.  Minnesota librarians also wrote a blog for our legislative librarian colleagues when we hosted the Legislative Research Librarians professional development seminar in St. Paul in 2009.  Our electronic and personal connections with our legislative librarian colleagues are always informative--and often fun!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 07/01/2015.

How often has the Legislature met outside the Capitol?

Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:00:00 GMT


With the Minnesota State Capitol closed for renovation, the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to meet in special session in the next week or two in modest, temporary chambers in two State Office Building hearing rooms.  Territorial legislatures met in a variety of locations but the Minnesota House and Senate have met in one of the three Minnesota capitols since the first one was built in 1853.

We were able to find one notable exception!  On March 1, 1881, the first State Capitol caught fire during an evening session in one of the final days of the 1881 legislative session.  The House and Senate quickly adjourned when the fire was discovered.  The Capitol was "totally destroyed" according to a story in the Minneapolis Tribune the next morning.  The Tribune states that "steps were taken promptly during the evening by the mayor and lieutenant-governor and speaker for the legislature to resume its session this morning in the new market building."  By 11 am the next morning, the Legislature was meeting in Market House a few blocks away at 7th and Wabasha.  The 1881 Legislature also met at Market House later that year for a special session. 

Although the hearing rooms in the State Office Building will be modest compared to the elegant House and Senate chambers in the beautiful 1905 Capitol, current legislators will not need to "take measures for the proper covering of the floor of the Hall with some thing other than saw dust" as they did during the 1881 special session at Market House!

Capitol renovation has booted the House out of its chamber during a previous special session.  The House met in the Senate chamber during the 1989 special session.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 06/03/2015.

A Record Low Number of Laws Enacted in 2015

Tue, 26 May 2015 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Another session has come to an end and library staff are busy updating our various statistical compilations about the Minnesota Legislature. It's always interesting to see how the current session compares to past sessions. One thing that stands out this year is the low number of bills that passed. The 2015 Minnesota Legislature passed 80 bills with only 77 of those being enacted. That is the lowest number of bills enacted during a regular session since Minnesota became a state. Compiled session statistics show that several territorial legislatures had fewer bills enacted, the lowest number being 23 during the 2nd Territorial Legislature in 1851.

The chart above illustrates the gradual decline in laws enacted since the Minnesota Legislature began meeting in flexible sessions in 1973. Interestingly, the highest number of enactments (1,159) occurred in 1969, shortly before the switch to flexible sessions. That is illustrated by another chart that also shows that the number of laws enacted has fluctuated over time.

The percentage of introduced bills that were enacted has also been in gradual decline since 1875.  In 2015, only 1.67% of bills introduced were enacted--another record low.

Elizabeth Lincoln & Carol Blackburn. Date: 05/27/2015.

Passing Bills on the Last Day of Session

Wed, 13 May 2015 19:00:00 GMT


A question legislative librarians are often asked in the waning days of legislative sessions is, "Can the Minnesota Legislature pass bills on the final day of a regular legislative session?". And each year, we research the question yet again to make sure we are providing the correct answer.

Minnesota's Constitution, Article 4, Section 21 states in part, "No bill shall be passed by either house upon the day prescribed for adjournment." When that section of the constitution was written, the constitution also established that the Minnesota Legislature would meet in regular session in odd-numbered years. With a single-year session, the "day prescribed for adjournment" was apparent.

Things changed in 1972 when Minnesota voters approved a proposed constitutional amendment to establish flexible, biennial sessions. (Minnesota House Public Information Services published an informative article in 1991 about the history of flexible sessions in Minnesota.) With the inaugural biennial legislative session in 1973/1974, for the first time in state history there was a "final" day in the first year and a "final" day in the second year. Were both days considered the "day prescribed for adjournment" per the state constitution? Or was the final day of the second year the official adjournment day? The question was answered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in its 1974 decision, State v. Hoppe: "... May 21, 1973 was not the day of final adjournment ... but was merely a temporary interim adjournment during the unitary biennial legislative session".

One final note. Since the advent of flexible sessions, the Legislature has met in regular session in each year of the biennium. But Article 4 Section 12 of the state's constitution does not mandate yearly sessions. It's possible that some future legislature will meet only one time during a biennium and that there will once again be a single, final "day prescribed for adjournment".

Carol Blackburn. Date: 05/14/2015.

State of the State

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 19:00:00 GMT


Continuing a tradition that dates back to the state's earliest days, Governor Mark Dayton presented his fifth State of the State address last night to an audience of legislators, state officials, and guests in the chamber of the Minnesota House of Representatives. His address is just the latest addition to the Legislative Library's compilation of Gubernatorial Addresses to the Minnesota Legislature. The earliest we've found was that of the last Territorial governor, Samuel Medary – though it was read by his private secretary, Mr. E. H. Cook.

This image captures Governor Rudy Perpich presenting one of his seven State of the State addresses. A close look at the photo shows several recognizable faces including former Governor Harold Stassen and several legislators including Senator Bill Diessner, Senator Neil Dieterich, Senator Mel Frederick, and Senator Ember Reichgott Junge

Elizabeth Lincoln & Carol Blackburn. Date: 04/10/2015.

Uninsured Drivers

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 18:00:00 GMT


Most states in the U.S., including Minnesota, require drivers to have motor vehicle insurance. Yet, it is estimated that 10.8% of Minnesota drivers and 12.5% of drivers nationally drive without insurance. Minnesota currently has a manual process to verify insurance coverage yet in practice, coverage is verified only in select cases. More than 30 other states have some type of electronic verification system.

The 2014 Minnesota Legislature created a task force to "review and evaluate approaches to insurance coverage verification and recommend legislation to create and fund a program in this state." The Final Report of the Motor Vehicle Insurance Coverage Verification Task Force, released on February 1, 2015, offers a comprehensive review of the issue and offers recommendations related to Minnesota's program.  

A recent posting in the Pew Charitable Trust's Stateline blog, "States Look to Reduce Ranks of Uninsured Drivers", offers a glimpse of the problem around the country and looks at state government efforts to address this ongoing concern.

Carol Blackburn. Date: 02/23/2015.

Why Are There Plastic Microbeads in Minnesota Waters?

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 18:00:00 GMT

(image) Many of the documents that flow into the Legislative Library this time of the year are annual reports about various state offices and programs. Scattered among those are a variety of studies that examine newly-emerging issues in the state of Minnesota.

What are plastic microbeads, why are they in Minnesota’s waters, and should we be concerned? Find the answers in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s recently released report, Plastic Microbeads in Minnesota.

A special review currently underway by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is related to concerns about declining bee populations. The study is looking at the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in Minnesota and their possible impacts on bees and other insect pollinators. In 2014, the MDA released a project update titled, Scoping a Review of Neonicotinoid Use, Registration, and Insect Pollinator Impacts in Minnesota.

Another recently-received report is about medical cannabis (medical marijuana). A new law in Minnesota establishes a program for the limited production, distribution, and use of medical cannabis; only those living with specific medical conditions are eligible to participate. As part of the program, which will begin supplying cannabis to patients by July 1, 2015, there is a requirement to collect and analyze research and data in order to better understand the effectiveness of cannabis in the treatment of specific conditions. Several reports are required including one recently released by the Minnesota Department of Health, A Review of Medical Cannabis Studies Relating to Chemical Compositions and Dosages for Qualifying Medical Conditions.

Contact a librarian at 651-296-8338, or, for further information on any of these issues.

Carol Blackburn. Date: 01/30/2015.

Minnesota excels at executive orders, thanks to LRL!

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 18:00:00 GMT

(image) Presidential Executive Orders have been in the news of late with the announcement of President Barack Obama's recent executive action related to immigration. Their use can be controversial and their effect powerful.  President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any other president in the past 100 years when you look at the average number of executive orders per year in office.  Similarly, Governor Mark Dayton has issued 82 executive orders during his time in office, far below former Governor Wendell Anderson's total of 143 over his four year term, the most issued by recent Minnesota governors.

State level executive orders can be just as important as state statutes and are considered public documents. The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library has been collecting Minnesota executive orders since the library's founding. The Library's searchable Minnesota Executive Orders database includes the full-text of executive orders from 1968 to the present.

In a recent Sunlight Foundation study, policy analysts evaluated all 50 states on the accessibility of their governor's executive orders. Minnesota earned an A, scoring high marks for machine readability, permanence, and timeliness of availability (how quickly executive orders are posted after issuance). The Foundation evaluated the Legislative Library’s database rather than the collection of executive orders available on the website of the Minnesota governor. Governors traditionally post executive orders for their administration only; when administrations change, this set of valuable historical information can be lost - or buried in state archives.

Just one more way the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library provides Minnesotans access to a notable set of information.

Betsy Haugen. Date: 12/02/2014.

Interesting Minnesota Elections

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:00:00 GMT

(image) The 2014 election is upon us and many remember interesting elections from previous years.  The Legislative Reference Library has a few books that recount the stories.

Electing Jesse Ventura: A Third-Party Success Story.  Jacob Lentz reports on the unexpected victory of third-party candidate Jesse Ventura over major-party candidates Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey in the 1998 race for governor.  (JK6193 1998)

Minnesota Standoff: The Politics of Deadlock.  Rod Searle writes about the process that led to the compromise between the two parties and his selection as House Speaker after the 1978 election resulted in a 67-67 tie in the Minnesota House.  (JK6171 .S43 1990)

Recount.   Ronald F. Stinnett and Charles H. Backstrom tell the story of the 139-day recount that resulted from the 1962 gubernatorial election.  Karl Rolvaag eventually took office in March of the following year with a 91 vote lead over incumbent Governor Elmer Andersen.  (JK6152 1962 .S7)

There is No November.  Dave Hoium and Leon Oistad recount first-hand the surprising turn of events when allegations against Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jon Grunseth forced him to quit nine days before election day in 1990.  Arne Carlson, who lost the endorsement to Grunseth months earlier, took his place on the ballot and defeated incumbent Governor Rudy Perpich.  (JK6195 .H65 1991)

This is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount.  Jay Weiner tells the story of the recount that followed the 2008 election.  Eventually Al Franken was sworn in as the junior Senator from Minnesota in July 2009 with a 312 vote lead over Norm Coleman.  (JK1968 2008 .W45 2010)

No one has written a book about the turn of events surrounding the 2002 U.S. Senate election following Senator Paul Wellstone’s death on October 25, 2002.   Walter Mondale’s autobiography, The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics (E840.8.M66 A3 2010) has a section on it and the Library has compiled documents related to the election.

Contact a librarian at 651-296-8338, or, to request these books.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 10/31/2014.

Combined Charities Used Book Sale - November 5 & 6

Mon, 15 Sep 2014 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Now's the time to clean out those closets! We want your used books,  DVD/VHS movies, books on tape/CD, music CDs, and puzzles for the 2014 Combined Charities Used Book Sale. Drop off your donations at any of three convenient locations by Monday, October 21: the Legislative Reference Library (Room 645 State Office Building), the Chief Clerk’s Office (Room 211 Capitol), or House Supply (Room G35 State Office Building). Donations from the public are welcomed and appreciated. This is an excellent way to get a tax deduction—receipts for your donations are available upon request. 

The Combined Charities Used Book Sale will be held on November 5 and 6 in Room 500N of the State Office Building, and is open to the public.

Thanks everyone!

Lisa Knoop and Tracey Van Haaften. Date: 09/16/2014.

40,000 Secretary of State Documents are now available

Sun, 22 Jun 2014 19:00:00 GMT


The Legislative Reference Library and the Office of the Secretary of State have just completed a major project digitizing 40,000 previously unavailable official state documents. 

The Office of the Secretary of State, as the repository for many of the official records of the state of Minnesota, have kept the official documents from 1900 to 1990, and the index cards used to retrieve them, secure in cabinets and boxes.  Now they are available to everyone online: Secretary of State Documents 1900-1990.

Among the interesting findings --

Other documents capture less momentous but important state events --

Access to this rich resource of official state information was funded through a grant from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Date: 06/23/2014.

Do they ever adjourn early?

Sun, 04 May 2014 19:00:00 GMT


Everyone's been asking--does the Legislature ever adjourn early? 

Since flexible sessions began in 1973, the Legislature has never adjourned early in the first half of the biennium.  The Minnesota Constitution limits the length of a regular session in two ways—it requires that the Legislature adjourn by the first Monday after the third Saturday in May of any year and it limits the number of legislative days in a biennium to 120. 

The second year of the biennium is another story—they have adjourned sine die before the constitutional adjournment date in all but two years since 1973.  And those two years are subject to interpretation.  On May 16, 2010, the Legislature adjourned a day before the deadline.   But they adjourned with unfinished business and went into special session on May 17th.  In 2002, the House adjourned two days before the required adjournment date of May 20th but the Senate didn’t adjourn until the deadline.

The Legislature has adjourned as early as March four times-- over fifty days before the May deadline..  The earliest March date was March 17th in 1986.  Other March adjournments happened in 1974, 1978, and 1982.  March 29, 1974 was notable because they had already used 116 of the allotted 120 legislative days.

The Legislative Reference Library has a detailed chart on the dates and number of legislative days for regular and special sessions.  We compiled a spreadsheet showing details on adjournments too.

It remains to be seen when adjournment will occur this year!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 05/05/2014.

Screen Reader Software

Mon, 24 Mar 2014 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Visitors to the Capitol who experience vision or reading comprehension issues are now able to use computers in the Legislative Reference Library.  JAWS and NVDA screen reader software is installed on select public computers in the Legislative Reference Library (645 State Office Building.) 

Visitors may use the computers to access current legislative information as well as the Library's large collection of electronic information and reports.  JAWS and NVDA software read the text on the screen in a computerized voice.  Guides are available in print and Braille and headphones are provided.

The Library purchased two copies of JAWS using a Technology Accessibility grant administered by the Legislative Coordinating Commission from Telecommunications Access Minnesota Fund appropriations.  Another copy is being used by legislative programmers to improve accessibility of the Legislature's website.

Elizabeth Lincoln & Tracey Van Haaften. Date: 03/25/2014.

Fishing Regulations

Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Governor Mark Dayton asked the Legislature to make the 2014 session an "Unsession."  The Governor proposed "more than 1,000 reforms that will improve state government services, eliminate unnecessary and outdated laws, and simplify the language of our state statutes." 

Dayton proposed a number of broad Unsession initiatives on taxes, permitting, rulemaking, and unnecessary laws.  The Governor's plain language initiative specifically identifies the annual fishing regulations as being too complex and need to be made more concise.  Legislative staff Colbey Sullivan (House Research), David Schmidtke (Legislative Reference Library), and Brad Hagemeier (House Fiscal Analysis Department) went ice fishing recently to test the complexity of the 2014 Fishing Regulations.  They plan on testing the 2015 Fishing Regulations next year too.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 03/18/2014.

15,000 Days

Sun, 26 Jan 2014 18:00:00 GMT

(image) (image) On Sunday, Representative Lyndon Carlson and Representative Phyllis Kahn will achieve 15,000 days of service in the Minnesota House of Representatives.  They still have over 500 days to go to beat Representative Willard Munger's record in the House.  And three legislators have even longer service when their House and Senate service is combined.

Representative Carlson could claim seniority over Representative Kahn if we were tracking their service by minutes--he was sworn in before she was!

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 01/27/2014.

Beverage Container Deposit Laws

Wed, 22 Jan 2014 18:00:00 GMT

(image) Anyone who follows the actions of the Minnesota Legislature for a few years quickly discovers that some issues recycle through the legislature on a regular basis.  One of those topics is… recycling - and specifically, “bottle bills”, or beverage container deposit-return legislation. Various forms of such legislation have been introduced in Minnesota back to at least 1969 when bills were introduced to prohibit sales of beverages in nonreturnable bottles.

Beverage container deposit programs require that a fee be added to the cost of each container; the fee is refunded when the container is returned for recycling. Oregon was the first state to pass such a law in 1971. Currently 10 states have these programs including neighboring Iowa.

Proponents say the programs increase recycling rates, decrease litter, save energy, and result in a net increase in jobs. Opponents cite the costs of establishing and operating such a program, loss of jobs in the existing recycling system, inconvenience to consumers, and financial impacts on retailers, especially near bordering states.

In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature requested that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) examine and report on issues surrounding the development of such a program in Minnesota.  That report, Recycling Refund System Cost Benefit Analysis, was released in January 2014.  Another PCA publication, the annual “SCORE” report,  provides information and data on Minnesota’s solid waste management system, including recycling.

It is likely that bottle bills will make a return appearance during the 2014 legislative session. The Legislative Library has a variety of materials documenting past efforts to pass such a law including reports and news clippings. Contact the library to learn about these materials or to find information on how these laws have worked in other states.

Carol Blackburn. Date: 01/23/2014.

Rod Searle and the 67-67 House

Tue, 07 Jan 2014 18:00:00 GMT

(image) Former House Speaker Rod Searle died at age 93 earlier this week.  First elected to the House in 1956, he served as House Speaker in 1979 after the November 7, 1978 election resulted in an equal number of representatives on each side of the political aisle.  (Check out this chart showing partisan control of the House, Senate, and Governor's office back to 1901.) 

With no precedent and no rules a group of negotiators worked out a compromise that made Independent Republican Rod Searle the Speaker.  In addition to the speakership, "the Republicans . . . got [the] chairs of subdivisions of the powerful money committees, on which they had a one-vote majority.  DFLers chaired the full money committees, on which they had a one-vote majority, and the rules committee."  (Star Tribune, January 7, 2014)

The final agreement was signed 35 years ago today--several days after the 1979 session convened.  Searle's book, Minnesota Standoff: the Politics of Deadlock, tells the story of the negotiations between the November election and January 8th.  It's well worth reading. 

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 01/08/2014.

Protest, innovation and politics...

Thu, 24 Oct 2013 19:00:00 GMT

(image) The Legislative Reference Library just received the wonderful new book Minnesota in the 70s by Dave Kenney and Thomas Saylor. From the Minnesota Historical Society Press + Borealis Books 10,000 Books weblog:

"This book tells the stories of people, places, and events that defined the state: colorful individuals, including Allan Spear, Arlene Lehto, Wendell Anderson, and Herb Brooks; significant groups like the Willmar 8, American Indian Movement, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and Save the Met; and news-making events, including the first Earth Day, the Dayton’s bombing, school desegregation battles, and highway construction protests. Richly illustrated with evocative photos, cartoons, and ephemera, this book helps bring the 1970s back to life."

We couldn't agree more. And in addition to the weightier topics mentioned above, this book reveals gems like the nation's first multi-level mobile home park in Vadnais Heights (1970), the protesters at Edina's Westgate Theater begging the cinema to play something other than Harold and Maude (1974), and an old LRL favorite, Minnesota's Experimental City!

Call (651) 296-8338 or email the Library to borrow this book.


Jess Hopeman. Date: 10/25/2013.

Combined Charities Used Book Sale - October 23rd & 24th

Wed, 18 Sep 2013 19:00:00 GMT



Please donate your used books, DVD or VHS movies, Books on Tape, CD’s and Puzzles to the 2013 Combined Charities Used Book Sale.

You may drop off your items at three convenient locations:

Legislative Reference Library (Room 645 S.O.B.)

Chief Clerk’s Office (Room 211 Capitol)

House Supply (Room G35 S.O.B.)

This is an excellent way to get a tax deduction.  Donations from the public are welcomed and appreciated. Receipts for your donations are available upon request.

Please drop off your donations by Monday, October 21st

The Combined Charities Used Book Sale will be held on October 23rd & 24th and is open to the public.

Thanks everyone!!!

Lisa Knoop. Date: 09/19/2013.

New Library Director Appointed

Tue, 10 Sep 2013 19:00:00 GMT

(image) The Legislative Reference Library is pleased to announce the appointment of our new director, Elizabeth Lincoln. Elizabeth has been a familiar face around the legislature, joining the library as a librarian in 1989. Since then, Elizabeth has held the positions of Senior Librarian, Head of Reference, Deputy Director and most recently, Acting Director. Receiving her Masters in Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison, she has experience in academic, public and special libraries. A native and resident of Minneapolis, Elizabeth enjoys biking and spending time with family and friends.

Please join us in welcoming Elizabeth to her new position.

Date: 09/11/2013.


Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:00:00 GMT

Did you know that there is a giant library archive in a cavern 82 feet below the University of Minnesota's West Bank Campus called the Minnesota Library Access Center? This magnificent facility is reminiscent of a huge underground munitions store, but is filled with aisle after aisle of books arranged by size for maximum density. Though it is closed to the public, my colleague David Schmidtke and I got a tour of MLAC last week from Tim McCluske while dropping off some items being shifted from our collection to their archives. The purpose of MLAC is to house low-use items from libraries, and since 2006 we have transferred 2,895 items to their collection. Mostly we send obscure technical consultant's reports on subjects like sediment quality in specific rivers or archaeological excavations related to highway construction. They don't get much use in our library but can be very valuable for U of M researchers and if our patrons ever need one of these items back, we can usually retrieve them within a day or two.  

The shelves are 17 feet high, and are accessed by two 'stockpickers' (forklifts that enable staff to slide heavy book trays onto a shelf without having to lift them) named Isis and Osiris. The facility is nearly full, but luckily they have four shelves reserved for future deposits from the LRL.

Visit the LRL Flickr site to see more photos of this cool place!



Jess Hopeman. Date: 07/24/2013.

Alan Rosenthal

Thu, 11 Jul 2013 19:00:00 GMT


Many are saddened to read in today's New York Times the obituary of Alan Rosenthal, political science professor at Rutgers University, and, more importantly, longtime advocate for strong legislative bodies and prolific writer on the topic. The Times characterizes him as "a political scientist whose ardent belief in representative democracy led him to help reshape and strengthen state legislatures across the country and to criticize their excesses and ethical infirmities."

The Legislative Reference Library has a large collection of his always popular books about legislatures, legislators, and government:

  • The Best Job in Politics:Exploring How Governors Succeed as Policy Leaders.  Sage/CQ Press, 2013.
  • The Case for Representative Democracy: What Americans Should Know About Their Legislatures.  NCSL, 2001.
  • The Decline of Representative Democracy: Process, Participation, and Power in State Legislatures.  CQ Press, 1998.
  • Drawing the Line: Legislative Ethics in the States.  University of Nebraska Press, 1996.
  • The Ethics Process in State Legislatures: Disciplining Members in a Public Forum.  NCSL, 1999.
  • Engines of Democracy: Politics & Policymaking in State Legislatures.  CQ Press, 2009.
  • Governors and Legislatures: Contending Powers.  CQ Press, 1990.
  • Heavy Lifting: the Job of the American Legislature.  CQ Press, 1990.
  • Legislative Education Leadership in the States, Institute for Educational Leadership, 1981.
  • Legislative Life: People, Process, and Performance in the States.  Harper & Row, 1981.
  • Legislative Performance in the States: Explorations of Committee Behavior.  Free Press, 1974.
  • Republic on Trial: the Case for Representative Democracy.  CQ Press, 2003.
  • Strengthening the States: Essays on Legislative Reform.  CQ Press, 1971.
  • The Third House: Lobbyists and Lobbying in the States.  CQ Press, 1993.

Call (651-296-8338) or email the Library to borrow any of Alan Rosenthal's books.

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 07/12/2013.

Capitol steps bill signing

Mon, 13 May 2013 19:00:00 GMT

(image) You've probably seen many photos of the Governor signing important bills.  Many bill signing ceremonies are held in the Governor's Reception Room in the Capitol, but they are often held elsewhere.  The photo at left is of the Governor signing the health exchange legislation in the Capitol's Great Hall a few months ago.  Governor Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill in the Capitol rotunda last year.

Governor Pawlenty held several bill signings off site--he held one for the statewide restaurant and bar smoking ban on the patio of an Eagan restaurant in 2007 and in 2006, he signed the Twins stadium bill at the Metrodome.  Governor Ventura signed a tax bill at the Harold Stassen Revenue building in 2001.

Today, the governor will sign the same sex marriage bill on the Capitol steps. Although it has possibly happened many times, we could find only one other instance of a bill being signed on the Capitol steps.  Governor Pawlenty signed the eminent domain reform bill on the Capitol steps in 2006. 

Elizabeth Lincoln. Date: 05/14/2013.

Got mandated reports?

Tue, 07 May 2013 19:00:00 GMT

(image) Each year the Minnesota Legislature mandates reports and studies to be completed by state agencies or other governmental entities. The Legislative Reference Library diligently tracks these mandated reports, and for years has done so using an internal acquisitions database affectionately known as ‘ACQ’. Patrons could call us with questions about anticipated reports, or agencies could ask for custom lists of what they were expected to submit. Unfortunately, they needed to contact the library to get that information if they weren’t tracking it themselves. Not anymore! Library staff have been working for many months to make available a public mandated reports search. It is easily searchable using many different criteria: responsible agency, title, description, citation, topic, year and others.

While the library catalog is still the comprehensive place to look for any reports we acquired over time, the new mandates interface provides additional information about future expected reports, and includes notes indicating when a mandate didn’t actually result in a written report.

Tracking mandates is a complex process and we are always eager to update our information. If you know of any delays, repealed reports or have questions or concerns about what you find, please contact us. We will still be happy to provide custom lists for anyone that wants them.

Happy searching!

Jess Hopeman. Date: 05/08/2013.