Minnesota State Legislative Guide

The 2018 blue wave brought progressive change around the country and its impact was powerful in Minnesota. Progressive legislation has stalled for years in Minnesota due to Republican control of the Minnesota Legislature. In 2018, Indivisible groups and progressive advocates in Minnesota worked hard to flip the House - including the election of TEN Indivisibles to state office! Although there were losses in the State Senate, Republicans currently only hold a three-vote majority - certainly not enough for their comfort.

As a result of this political activism, Minnesota is nearly a blue trifecta: Democrats control the House and Governor’s mansion, and are only a three-vote minority in the Senate. This balance gives us the power to push for innovative policy and make up for lost time with long-stalled progressive priorities. Minnesota is also now the only state in the country with a split legislature.

After working hard during the elections, Indivisible groups are ready to lead this charge. It’s up to us to hold newly-elected Democrats - and Democrats who have been able to avoid taking strong progressive stands because of Republican control of the House - accountable to our values.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how the Minnesota Legislature operates. For more information on the importance of state advocacy, what motivates state legislators and how to get started, check out the Indivisible States Guide.

Learn about your state elected officials

Indivisible States has lots of information on how to learn about who represents you in the state legislature and how to keep track of what they’re up to.

  • Look up your MN state legislators here

It’s also useful to follow other key elected officials—not so that you can lobby them directly, but so you can work with other Indivisibles who are represented by those legislators. Some other key people to watch in St. Paul are:

Key session dates for 2019

  • Jan 8: Legislative session begins

  • March 15: Deadline for committees to advance a bill in its house of origin. Major appropriation bills are exempt.

  • March 29: Deadline for committees to advance bill or companions of bills that met their first deadline in the other chamber. Major appropriation bills are exempt.

  • April 12: Deadline for committees to advance major appropriation and finance bills

  • May 1: Deadline for both chambers to pass major finance bills off the floor and for leaders to set conference committees.

  • May 6: Legislative leaders and the governor will set fiscal targets for major finance bills and release them to conference committee chairs.

  • May 13: Conference committee chairs will provide reports to their houses of origin.

  • May 20: Legislative session ends

Common abuses of the legislative process

You’ve learned how the Minnesota Legislature is supposed to work - but legislators often game the system to avoid drawing attention to unpopular or controversial bills they are trying to pass.

Carrier bills and amendment deletion

Carrier bills are non-controversial bills that pass through the legislative process, only to have their contents removed and replaced via a “delete all” amendment with something else related to the same topic.

This is a way of avoiding committee hearings & advance notice/press that will cover the actual substance of the bill, or progressing a bill that did not meet a deadline.

Single subject rule violations

Minnesota has a constitutional amendment that bills have to relate to a single subject only. There’s a lot of ways this is stretched - last year the GOP broke it entirely with an 998 page bill called “omnibus prime.”

When bills cover multiple subjects, they are less transparent and it is more difficult for advocacy organizations and grassroots activists to understand legislation.

Magic clauses

Magic clauses are sections of an omnibus that show up before a floor vote (like magic) but have never had hearings in a committee.

This happens a lot end of session, and prevents advocacy organizations and grassroots activists from having time to properly vet the bill through the legislative process.

Short notice on Senate votes

The Senate calendar is typically blank - even Senators often do not know what is being voted on until several hours before session begins. The Senate posts upcoming votes to Facebook and Twitter and give maybe a couple of hours notice.

This lack of notice makes it difficult for citizens to participate in government by watching floor votes, engaging in direct actions during votes, and more.

Avoiding public participation in hearings

Like with Senate floor debates and votes, committee hearings are a great place for constituent action. Legislators sometimes try to avoid public participation and keep the hearings under wraps. They can do this in a few different ways:

  • Switch rooms or times at the last minute

  • Removing bills from the agenda

  • Moving bill hearing to a different date entirely

  • Hold negotiations behind closed doors rather than in public

  • Perpetually keep certain committees at the “call of the chair,” meaning they can convene without notice

All of these techniques are used to dwindle down the supporting public testimony for bills.

Getting around the Capitol

The Minnesota State Capitol is located at 75 Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155. You can find maps, more information on parking and directions, as well as accessibility, on the Capitol’s website.

This map of the Statehouse may also be useful to bring with you.

Additional resources