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Frequently Asked Questions About the Minnesota Legislature

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Procedures (Parliamentary)

1. What is First Reading? How many readings does a bill get before the body can vote on it? Why?


The state constitution requires that each bill be reported on three separate days in each body before votes for final passage can occur. These reports of the bill are called readings. Therefore, every bill will have a first, second, and third reading before a vote is taken.

A bill is given its first reading at the time it is introduced. A bill typically receives its second reading after it has been heard in committee and has been recommended to pass. It is then ready to be placed on one of the calendars or agendas in each house.

Once all proposed amendments have been discussed and voted on, a bill receives its third reading and can no longer be amended. Then members discuss the bill and it proceeds to final vote.

Under extraordinary conditions, a bill may receive all three readings in one day in either the House or the Senate if a motion to bypass the rules of the body receives a two-thirds majority vote.

2. Must every bill receive a committee hearing?


No. Usually, though, every bill that becomes law goes through the committee process first. Members of either the House or the Senate may vote to forgo the committee process and give a bill all three of its readings on the same day in extraordinary situations where time is an issue. In addition, every bill is assigned to a committee, but not every bill receives a hearing. That is up to the chair of the committee and, in the Senate, the chief author of the bill.

3. What is the Committee of the Whole?


The Committee of the Whole is the entire membership of the Senate acting as one large committee to consider bills listed on General Orders. There is no longer a Committee of the Whole in the House. In the Senate, the president may appoint another member to preside and act as chair of the Committee of the Whole. Each bill on General Orders must be printed or electronically available at least one calendar day before consideration in the Committee of the Whole. The members debate the bill, offer and adopt amendments, and vote to recommend that the bill pass, pass as amended, be re-referred to another committee, or be returned to its author.

4. What happens if a bill is defeated in the Committee of the Whole?


It remains on the General Orders and may be taken up again at a later date.

5. What are the House Rules and Senate Rules? Why does each body have them?


These rules govern the procedures of each body and the acceptable conduct of each member. According to the state constitution, the Legislature must establish its own rules and procedure. As a result, both the House and the Senate establish their own rules, as well as joint rules. New rules are adopted each biennium. The rule-drafting process actually begins very early in the legislative session. Both the House and the Senate have rules subcommittees to put together proposed rules. Then the proposed rules are presented to the entire body for approval. Until the new permanent rules are adopted, the House and Senate adopt the rules from the previous session as temporary rules.

6. How are executive appointments confirmed?


The Senate is authorized to give its advice and consent on executive appointments under Minnesota Statute 15.066. Appointments made by the Governor to state agencies that require confirmation by the Senate are referred to the appropriate committees. The Engrossing Secretary processes governor's appointments for Senate approval and fields any questions. Lists of appointees are available for current and past bienniums.

7. What is Rule 26? What are Special Orders?


In both houses, the process a bill follows may be accelerated in the interest of time. In the Senate, this happens through Rule 26 and Special Orders. Rule 26 provides for immediate consideration and third reading of bills that have been given their second reading, rather than having to go through the Committee of the Whole and waiting an entire day before it can be taken up. Under Rule 26, the chair of the Committee on Rules and Administration or the chair's designee can designate a bill that has been given a second reading as a Special Order. At that point, the bill can be amended and discussed before being given its third reading and placed on final passage.

8. Are there any legislative calendar deadlines?


There is no yearly deadline for the introduction of bills. However, each year the Legislature establishes deadlines for committee action on bills. The Legislature shall establish by concurrent resolution deadlines for each regular session. The deadlines do not apply to the House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.

Committee deadlines are announced during the first half of a session in order to winnow the list of topics to be dealt with that year.

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