Menu

The legislature convened on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.
Skip Navigation LinksLegislature > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About the Minnesota Legislature

List all titles or search the FAQ Database 

Citizen Participation

How do I contact my legislator? How do I let a Representative or Senator know how I feel about an issue?

One way is to call your legislator's office. (Phone numbers for representatives or senators.) Email is a second method. Email is most effective if it is not a blanket mailing to all members, but a specific mail message to your representative or senator. (Find out who represents you.) When sending an email, remember to include your name, postal address and phone number. (E-mail addresses for representatives or senators.) The best way to get a legislator's attention is with a short, well-reasoned letter. Here are a few do's and don'ts on how to write an effective letter to your representative:

Do . . .

  • Be brief; never write more than one page.
  • Make your letter neat and easy to read (type or print).
  • Make sure you understand the legislative process.
  • Identify the issue at the top of the letter and cover only one issue per letter. If you have more than one issue that needs to be addressed, write separate letters for each issue.
  • Remember; you're the expert; make your letter informative.
  • Identify yourself and the reason for your expertise.
  • Get right to the point. For example, you may wish to begin your letter like this: "I hope you will support (oppose) HF or SF___." Give your reasons for supporting or opposing the measure. Tell your legislator why you think the bill, if it becomes law, will help or hurt you, your children, your business, or your community. Explain what it means to you.
  • Use terms they will understand and avoid using abbreviations.
  • Offer to be of assistance. Offer to testify if there is a hearing regarding the issue with which you're concerned.
  • Ask for a reply if you want one. However, keep in mind how many meetings and hearings your legislator must attend. They will call or write to you as soon as they are able.
  • Be polite and reasonable. Lawmakers can't please everyone. They may disagree with you. Try to respect their views. Don't lose your temper, even on paper. Tell your legislator what you think and why, but be polite.
  • And finally, be sure to say "thanks."

Don't . . .

  • Don't use form letters or post cards. Use your own words. Legislators say, "I'd rather get one short, simple, handwritten letter than a hundred form letters that organizations urge people to write. The letters come in stacks 300 deep. Even if they're handwritten, they're word for word the same." Also, use personal or business stationery, or a plain sheet of paper.
  • Don't threaten legislators. Legislators say, "Some folks don't know how you stand on an issue, but they'll attack you right off the bat. They'll say, 'Vote for HF____ or else,' and you may already think it's a wonderful idea. Or they'll write, 'Why aren't you supporting this bill, you fool?' and you're the sponsor of the bill. Threats and insults don't work."
  • Don't address a legislator as "Congressman."

This is the proper way to address your letter:

Honorable (Full Name)
Minnesota House of Representatives
Room # State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1298

or

Honorable (Full Name)
Minnesota Senate
Room # Capitol Building
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606

The salutation should read: Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. (Surname):

Specific addresses for members of the Minnesota House of Representatives and members of the Minnesota Senate are included in member profiles.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Make an appointment. It's best to let your legislator know when you're going to be at the Capitol so he or she can arrange to spend some time with you. Call or write.
  • If you're calling about a specific piece of legislation, find out the House or Senate file number and status before you contact your legislator. For help, call House Index at (651) 296-6646.

Are there legislator contact lists?

The House of Representatives member information page includes Representatives' contact information as well as an excel spreadsheet, address labels, leadership information and more.

Senate member information includes senator contact information, district order and leadership lists, mailing labels and more.

May I testify at a committee hearing?

Yes. Members of the general public are encouraged to testify before committees, though testimony must be arranged with committee staff prior to a scheduled hearing. Committees primarily focus hearings on particular bills, though occasionally they discuss issues of broad interest within the committee's jurisdiction. It's best not to appear to testify at a committee on the day it is scheduled to hear a particular bill or discuss a particular topic without previously contacting the committee staff or your representative. Call House Public Information Services at (651) 296-2146 or Senate Information (651) 296-0504 to find the phone numbers for committee staff or to receive a standing committee schedule.

Here are 10 simple suggestions to make it easier to get involved:

1. ARRIVE EARLY. Getting to the meeting early will give you a chance to survey the terrain, identify legislators, and to make last-minute changes to your presentation.

2. CONTACT THE COMMITTEE'S ADMINISTRATOR OR LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT. If you want to testify, make sure you are on the committee meeting agenda. It's best to contact the committee a day or two before the hearing to do this. But, time permitting, it's possible to sign up and testify on same day of the hearing.

3. INTRODUCE YOURSELF. When speaking to the committee, clearly identify yourself and the organization you represent, if any. Then clearly state your position on the bill before the committee.

4. SPEAK THROUGH THE COMMITTEE CHAIR. All questions and answers during committee hearings are routed through the committee chair. Address the chair as "Madame Chair" or "Mr. Chair." This makes it easier to follow the testimony when listening to tapes of recorded committee meetings.

5. DON'T BE INTIMIDATED. This is a citizen Legislature. Representatives are your friends and neighbors and they want to hear what you have to say. Just state your case clearly and in simple terms as you would to anyone.

6. BE BRIEF. Make your key points as concisely as possible. Provide specific information about why your position is in the state's best interest. Legislators may want to know what, if anything, has been done in other states, what the costs might be, and what groups support or oppose your proposal. If you know the answers, include them in your statement.

7. BE PREPARED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. The best way to make your case is to provide straightforward answers to legislators' questions. If you don't know the answer, say so. If possible, find the answer and pass it on to committee members.

8. WRITTEN SUMMARIES. You may want to have copies of a concise summary of your key points to hand out to legislators, staff and the news media. Some legislators say a clearly written letter, or issue sheet, is the most effective way of gaining support.

9. OFFER TO HELP. Citizens play a key role in shaping state policy. Ask if there is anything you can do to help get the proposal in question approved or defeated.

10. MUTUAL RESPECT. Your views are important and you have a right to be treated courteously by all members and staff. Likewise, legislators are more apt to respond to polite treatment than to browbeating. There are many sides to every issue and each one has merit. Understand the difficult position legislators have in reaching their decisions.

If you need accommodations such as sign language interpreters or large print materials, call (651) 296-4860 as far in advance as possible.

House Public Information Services has created a series of short videos about testifying before a committee.

What publications are available from the Legislature?

The Legislative Publications Web page links to free print and/or online publications providing session information, mailing lists, fiscal information, reports, and revisor's manuals.

How do I get a copy of the red book, green book and blue book? What are the differences between each of the publications?

The green and red member directories are joint publications of the Minnesota House and Senate. The green book or Members Directory is published near the beginning of the first year of a biennial legislative session - usually in February. The green book contains pictures, biographical information, committee assignments and contact information for all 134 Representatives and 67 Senators. It also lists key House and Senate Staff and certain joint offices. The green book is followed later in the session by the red book, the Official Directory of the Minnesota Legislature. The red book contains extra information, such as the permanent rules of both the House and the Senate, joint rules, statutory and constitutional provisions relating to the Legislature and other useful information. The red book is usually available no later than June of the odd-numbered year.

Green and red books are available at the House Public Information Services, Room 175, State Office Building and at the Senate Information Office, Room 231, State Capitol. Limited copies are mailed.

The blue book or Minnesota Legislative Manual, is published by the Secretary of State's Office. It includes detailed information about the three branches of government, constitutional officers, and election statistics for certain offices over the state's history, as well as detailed information from the most recent election. The book also contains the state constitution and a history of proposed constitutional amendments.

Copies of the blue book are available to the public, free of charge, in Room 180, State Office Building, or call (651) 215-1440 to order one.

How do I subscribe to the House and Senate newsmagazines, Session Weekly and Senate Briefly?

Senate Briefly (Archive) and Session Weekly are newsmagazines produced by the Senate and the House of Representatives to inform readers about the actions of the Legislature. Session Weekly and Senate Briefly are published every Friday during the legislative session. Both are free to the public.

Historically, Senate Briefly was a printed newsletter distributed throughout the state via a mailing list and circulated in the Capitol Complex. Because of budget restrictions, Senate Briefly is now only available online.

To subscribe to Session Weekly, call House Public Information Services at (651) 296-2146 or 1-800-657-3550 or complete their online subscription form.

How can I watch the Legislature on television?

House Public Information Services and Senate Media Services provide unedited broadcasts of legislative committee and floor proceedings on the digital Minnesota Channel, which is carried by the six public television stations around the state. Daily television coverage schedules are available online for the House and Senate.

Unedited live coverage of floor sessions and selected committee hearings is available over the Internet. Archives of this coverage are also available using Windows Media Player and RealPlayer streaming technology. For more information on Internet streaming see the House television web schedule and Senate media coverage page.

Who do I contact to schedule an event at the Capitol?

The Minnesota Department of Administration is in charge of scheduling events on the Capitol grounds. You can find Public Events contact information on their site and information about events already scheduled.

Are there specific services for people who are blind or visually impaired?

  • Signs. Raised numbers identify legislative offices and rooms in the State Office Building and Capitol. In addition, Braille signs are installed throughout the Capitol Building and the State Office Building to assist those who are visually impaired. The elevators in both buildings are equipped with control signs in Braille.
  • Large print. Some of the printed material handed out in committees may be enlarged on the copying machines used by the Legislature. For assistance, contact:
    Legislative Coordinating Commission, 651-296-1121
    Room 72 State Office Building
  • Readers. Readers for printed materials can be arranged upon request. Advance notice is necessary to insure timely assistance. For assistance, contact:
    Legislative Coordinating Commission, 651-296-1121
  • Recorded Meetings. Every committee, commission meeting, and floor session is recorded. Since 2004 the audio recordings are available on the Minnesota Legislature's website.

    House Audio and Video Archives
    Senate Media Services-Senate Audio Service

    For information on getting copies of House audio recordings, contact:
    House Public Information, 651-296-2146
    Senate Supply, 651-296-5720.

    If an individual wishes to listen to the recording of a committee meeting or floor session, listening facilities are located in the Legislative Reference Library, 651-296-8338
    Room 645, State Office Building.

  • Screen Readers. JAWS and NVDA screen reader software is installed on select public access computers in the Legislative Reference Library, Room 645, State Office Building.

Is there a way I can send a bulk email to all legislators?

No, there is not a way to send bulk email to all Minnesota legislators. While email is an effective way to contact your Representative or Senator, it is best to address your concerns to the legislators that represent you.

Every member of the Legislature has an email address that he or she checks regularly. Email addresses are based on the member's name. For example, Representative Jane Doe's email address is rep.jane.doe@house.mn. Senator John Doe's email address is sen.john.doe@senate.mn.

To find out a specific member's e-mail address, you can look several places. The House and Senate Web sites have pages for each member that includes his or her e-mail address (Members of the House of Representatives and Minnesota Senators). The Official Directory of the Minnesota Legislature (the red book) and the Members Directory (the green book) contain contact information, including email addresses, for all legislators. To receive a free copy of the red or green book, or to ask a member's email address, call either House Public Information at (651) 296-2146 or Senate Information at (651) 296-0504.

How do I find information about a bill if I don't know the bill number, bill author or anything else other than a general topic?

You can search for House bills or Senate bills by topic from 1995 to the present from the Legislation and Bill Status page. Click on the link for the House or for the Senate for a search form. The keyword option allows you to search with keywords or phrases. You can also search by topics assigned to each bill from the House Bill Information--Topic Search page or from the Senate Bill Information--Topic Search page.

How to Follow a Bill is a helpful online guide to the process. For further information on this topic, see the Bills section of this FAQ.

If you do not have Internet access, there are public terminals in the Legislative Reference Library on the sixth floor of the State Office Building. The House and Senate Index Offices also track the status of current bills. They can help you find a particular piece of legislation. Call House Index at (651) 296-6646 or Senate Index at (651) 296-2887. To receive a copy of the bill once you locate it, call the Chief Clerk's Office in the House at (651) 296-2314 or Senate Information at (651) 296-0504.

How do I find out who my Senator and Representative are?

Both House Public Information Services in Room 175 State Office Building and the Senate Information Office, Room 231 State Capitol, can tell you who represents you in both the House and the Senate. They have district finders that are compiled after each census when the redistricting process is completed. Simply call House Information at (651) 296-2146 or Senate Information at (651) 296-0504 to find out that information or stop into either office. For additional resources, including searchable databases, see Who Represents Me? and Legislative Districts.

How do I schedule a press conference or reserve a room at the Capitol?

To schedule a press conference or reserve a Senate or House hearing room, you should contact the Senate Sergeant at Arms at (651) 296-0866 or the House Speaker's Office at (651) 296-0306. To schedule a press conference on the front steps of the Capitol or in the Capitol rotunda, you will need to contact Minnesota Department of Administration at (651) 201-2300.

Minnesota State Legislature