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Encyclopedia > Minnesota Legislature

The Minnesota State Legislature is the legislative branch of government in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is a bicameral legislature located at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul and it consists of two houses: the lower Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate. The House has 134 seats, the Senate has 67.


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. Many laws were written in the early for specific cities before the practice was outlawed in 1881, though they still tried. 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 State 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 also was an historical accident that occured in the 1913 session 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-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 legislature oversees the funding for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) systems.


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.


In 2004, the legislature ended its regular session without acting on a majority of the planned legislation, largely due to political divisiveness on a variety of issues ranging from education to same-sex marriage (See same-sex marriage in the United States for related events during the year). A proper budget failed to pass, and major anticipated projects such as the Northstar Corridor commuter rail line were not approved. Governor Tim Pawlenty, an advocate of the line, was expected to request a special session, but ended up helping the coordination of other funds to continue development of the line.


The lack of action in the 2004 session is said to be one reason why a number of Republican House members lost their seats in the November election. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor minority grew from 53 to 66 and the Republican majority was reduced from 81 to 68.


The Senate was not up for election in 2004 so the DFL was able to maintain its 5 seat majority in the upper house. One State Senator is Independence Party member, Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester, she caucuses with the DFL today, although she had been a Republican in the past.


When the legislature is in session, it is broadcast on television via KTCI channel 17 to the Twin Cities region.


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