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Frequently Asked Questions About the Minnesota Legislature

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Laws, Statutes and Rules

What is a law?

A law is an idea, placed in bill form, that has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate and has not been vetoed by the Governor.

What are statutes?

Minnesota Statutes is a compilation of the general and permanent laws of the state, incorporating all new laws, amendments, or repeals of old law. It is printed every two years by the Revisor of Statutes Office. A supplement is issued in odd-numbered years to show changes made during that legislative session. The citation for laws contained in the supplement is "Minnesota Statutes 1989 Supplement, section 335.01." Statutes are laws that apply to all citizens and cover a variety of topics, including the following: the Legislature, the executive branch, state departments, the judiciary and courts, tax policy, public safety and police authority, towns, cities, counties, commerce and trade, private property and private rights, civil injuries and remedies, and crimes against people and property and the penalties associated with them.

What is a rule?

There are three definitions of a rule, depending on which branch of government you are referring to.

Procedural rules In the Legislature, rules refer to the regulating principles or methods of procedure. The Minnesota Constitution, Minnesota Statutes, Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, and custom and usage are all guidelines which determine legislative procedure. Each body adopts the rules under which it operates and the joint rules which govern joint conventions.

Administrative rules In the executive branch of state government, rules are operating principles or orders created by an office of the state under authority granted by the Legislature. These administrative rules have the force and effect of law.

Administrative rules are not actually enacted by the Legislature. Rather, the Legislature merely gives the state agency or unit the authority to establish its own rules. For more information on the difference between rules and laws, visit the Web page About Minnesota Rules.

Minnesota Court Rules are rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Minnesota, governing legal proceedings in the various courts in the state. Other documents that are included here are the Sentencing Guidelines, which are promulgated by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission and the Lawyer's Professional Responsibility Board Opinions.

The court rules also contain court orders, notes, and comments of the drafters.

What is an act?

Act is the official name for a bill that has been enrolled for presentation to the Governor. Each act is assigned a chapter number and is published in the bound volume called the Session Laws of the State of Minnesota. This book serves as the only official record for temporary and special laws, such as laws for a specific unit of government or a law containing an appropriation. Those laws are not compiled in the Minnesota Statutes.

How do laws, statutes, and rules differ?

Laws refer to all laws passed by the Legislature, which are subsequently bound in the Session Laws of that year. Statutes are a codification of the general and permanent laws, which are compiled and published every year as Minnesota Statutes or its supplement. By codifying laws into Minnesota Statutes, the laws are placed into context of statutes that have been on the books in previous years.

Sometimes, it is difficult to understand a law unless it is placed into the proper context in Minnesota Statutes. But remember that not all laws will become statutes. Some laws, such as ones passed for a specific town or city, and appropriation measures, aren't included in Minnesota Statutes. So you won't find the appropriations made by the 2000 Legislature in the same set of books that contain the Minnesota statutes prohibiting drunk driving. The appropriation bills are probably the best examples of laws that aren't statutes.

Why are some laws not included in statutes? The main reason is that appropriation laws are applicable for only two years, whereas laws included in the statutes are intended to be permanent. And because local laws do not apply on a general level, they are not included in the statutes.

Administrative rules are not actually enacted by the Legislature. Rather, the Legislature merely gives the state agency or unit the authority to establish its own rules. For more information on the difference between rules and laws, visit the Web page About Minnesota Rules.

How can I find the law on a particular subject?

Laws of a general and permanent nature having statewide application are coded in Minnesota Statutes. Special acts and certain other legislation are found only in the Session Laws of the year in which enacted. In addition, there are federal laws, rules and regulations of state departments and agencies, and local ordinances and regulations.

If the law is a state law and if it is coded, it can be found by using the index to the Minnesota Statutes. A table showing local and special acts for a number of sessions can be found in volume 13 of the Minnesota Statutes. The table is arranged by the names of local units. Subject indexes in the journals of past legislative sessions may also be used. Minnesota Statutes and Session Laws are available online at the Legislature's website, which has a keyword search feature.

When do new laws go into effect?

Unless a specific effective date is provided in the bill, the act will take effect on August 1 following its final enactment (see Minnesota Statute 645.02) . Bills containing an item of appropriation, however, take effect on July 1. A special law which requires approval of a local government unit becomes effective on the day following the day the certificate of approval is filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State, unless a specific later date is specified in the act. Each act takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on the day it becomes effective, unless a different time is specified in the act.

Where do I find Journals, Minnesota Statutes, and Session Laws?

Print copies of current session Journals are available to the public at the Secretary of the Senate's Office counter and the front desk of the House Chief Clerk's Office. In addition, electronic versions of House Journals (since 1994), Senate Journals (since 1996), Minnesota Statutes and Session Laws are available on the Legislative Web site.

The Legislative Reference Library has current and historical printed Journals, Minnesota Statutes, and Session Laws available for public use.

Some Journals, Minnesota Statutes, and Session Laws from previous years are available for reference on a limited basis in the Senate Information Office, Room 231 State Capitol and Senate Index, Room 110 State Capitol and in the House Public Information Services, Room 175 State Office Building.

How do I retrieve past Minnesota statutes?

For past versions of the Minnesota Statutes back to 1997, go to the Minnesota Statutes Archive page.

What are the official versions of Minnesota laws, statutes and rules?

In each case, the official version is the printed, hardbound set published by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. (See Minnesota Statutes 3C.06, 3C.08, and 14.47). Information on this website is not intended to replace the official versions. However, every attempt has been made to ensure that the information on this website is accurate and timely. The website is presented"as is" and without warranties, either express or implied, including warranties regarding the content of this information.

How can I find historical data on the Minnesota Legislature?

Historical information about the Minnesota Legislature is available from the Legislative Reference Library and the Minnesota Historical Society. A historical data Web page is available with facts on House and Senate leadership over time, party control, sessions, vetoes, women in the Legislature, and more. For information on former members of the legislature, see Minnesota Legislators Past & Present, call the Legislative Library at (651) 296-8338 or email the Library.

How do I cite Minnesota legal sources?

Below are some examples of Minnesota legal citations.

Note: In some instances, two citation formats are listed: 1) Legislative: as cited by the Minnesota Revisor of Statutes or on the Minnesota Legislative website; 2) Legal court citation: as cited in legal citation manuals. Legislative hearing cite formats are taken from a citation manual (tapes) and the William Mitchell Law Review (web archive).

Constitution: Minn. Const. art. IV, sec. 8

Statutes: Minnesota Statutes 2008, section 123.45, subdivision 6 ; MINN. STAT. 123.45 (2008) ; MINN. STAT. ANN. 123.45 (2008)

Session Laws: Laws of Minnesota 2007, chapter 150, article 8, section 3 ; Laws of Minnesota 2007, 1st Spec. Sess. chapter 2, article 3, section 3 ; 2007 Minn. Laws xxx (note: xxx is a page #)

Minnesota Rules: Minnesota Rules, part 1234.0100, subpart 5, item A ; MINN. R. 1234.0100 (2007)

House and Senate Journals: Minn. Sen. J., 85th Leg., Reg. Sess. xxx (2008) (note: xxx is a page #) ; Minn. H.J., 85th Leg., Reg. Sess. xxx (2008) (note: xxx is a page #)

Legislative Floor and Committee Hearings:

Floor debates (Tapes): Minn. Sen., Floor Debate, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007) (Sen. recording tape no. 2, side A.) ; Minn. H., Floor Debate, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007) (H. recording tape no. 2, side A.)

Floor debates (Internet): Minn. Sen., Floor Debate, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007), available at: http://www... (audio [or] video web media) ; Minn. H., Floor Debate, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007), available at: http://www... (audio [or] video web media)

Committee debates (Tapes): Minn. Sen., Hearing on S.F. 123 before the Sen. Comm. on Taxes, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007) (Sen. recording tape no. 1, side B.) ; Minn. H., Hearing on H.F. 123 before the H. Comm. on Taxes, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007) (H. recording tape no. 1, side B.)

Committee debates (Internet): Minn. Sen., Hearing on S.F. 123 before the Sen. Comm. on Taxes, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007), available at: http://www... (audio [or] video web media) ; Minn. H., Hearing on H.F. 123 before the H. Comm. on Taxes, 85th Minn. Leg., Reg. Sess. (Feb. 8, 2007), available at: http://www... (audio [or] video web media)

When are the numbers assigned to the sections of the statutes?

Section numbers, or coding, may be proposed in a bill for a new law, or in a bill which provides for adding a new section to a chapter of the statutes. However, coding may be added or changed by the Revisor of Statutes when necessary. Coding is technical in nature and is done at the time of editing and publishing the statutes. Each chapter of the statutes covers a broad subject and has a number. Sections under that chapter have the same number followed by a decimal point and another number.

How do I read the statutes? What do the italicized numbers at the end of a section mean?

Divisions of both Session Laws and Minnesota Statutes may be called chapters, but a reference to Minnesota Statutes will usually be to a section number. For example, chapter 335 of the statutes will be divided into sections, perhaps beginning with 335.01. The proper citation for this would be "Minnesota Statutes, section 335.01" or "Minnesota Statutes 1990, section 335.01." The numbers at the end of a section represent the history of that particular section. For example, [1959 c 67 s 3; 1963 c 861 s 10; 1974 c 370 s20] means that the section was new in 1959 and was contained in the Laws of Minnesota 1959, chapter 67, section 3. It was amended in Laws 1963, chapter 861, section 10, and amended again in Laws 1974, chapter 370, section 20. If you look up those chapters of those particular Session Laws, you will find what changes were made.

Where can I buy Minnesota Laws, Statutes, or Rules?

Sets and individual volumes of Minnesota Laws, Statutes, and Rules are available from Minnesota’s Bookstore in St. Paul. They can be ordered at their store located at 660 Olive Street, Saint Paul MN 55155; by phone (651-297-3000 or 1-800-657-3757), by mail; or online.

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