By Elizabeth Lincoln
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!
By Elizabeth Lincoln
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.
By Elizabeth Lincoln & Carol Blackburn
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.
By Carol Blackburn
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".
By Elizabeth Lincoln & Carol Blackburn
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.