You've probably seen many photos of the Governor signing important bills. Many bill signing ceremonies are held in the Governor's Reception Room in the Capitol, but they are often held elsewhere. The photo at left is of the Governor signing the health exchange legislation in the Capitol's Great Hall a few months ago. Governor Dayton signed the Vikings stadium bill in the Capitol rotunda last year.
Governor Pawlenty held several bill signings off site--he held one for the statewide restaurant and bar smoking ban on the patio of an Eagan restaurant in 2007 and in 2006, he signed the Twins stadium bill at the Metrodome. Governor Ventura signed a tax bill at the Harold Stassen Revenue building in 2001.
Today, the governor will sign the same sex marriage bill on the Capitol steps. Although it has possibly happened many times, we could find only one other instance of a bill being signed on the Capitol steps. Governor Pawlenty signed the eminent domain reform bill on the Capitol steps in 2006.
Each year the Minnesota Legislature mandates reports and studies to be completed by state agencies or other governmental entities. The Legislative Reference Library diligently tracks these mandated reports, and for years has done so using an internal acquisitions database affectionately known as ‘ACQ’. Patrons could call us with questions about anticipated reports, or agencies could ask for custom lists of what they were expected to submit. Unfortunately, they needed to contact the library to get that information if they weren’t tracking it themselves. Not anymore! Library staff have been working for many months to make available a public mandated reports search. It is easily searchable using many different criteria: responsible agency, title, description, citation, topic, year and others.
While the library catalog is still the comprehensive place to look for any reports we acquired over time, the new mandates interface provides additional information about future expected reports, and includes notes indicating when a mandate didn’t actually result in a written report.
Tracking mandates is a complex process and we are always eager to update our information. If you know of any delays, repealed reports or have questions or concerns about what you find, please contact us. We will still be happy to provide custom lists for anyone that wants them.
Books & Reports
The House of Representatives has had a highly regarded high school page program for high school juniors since 1975. The high school pages are familiar faces to those who spend a lot of time on the House floor.
One key element to the program is participation in "a mock committee session designed to develop students' leadership skills and to inspire them to think critically about the issues confronting our state." The pages spend a couple of hours in the Library each week researching a topic they choose to prepare for their committee hearing. Fracking and four-day school weeks were just two of the topics they debated in mock committee this year.
But staff in the Library don't see them as much during the last few weeks of the program. With longer floor sessions the pages are needed on the House floor (along with the non-high-school pages) so they don't have time for a mock committee hearing.
Brett Dornfeld is the head of the program this year. Many legislators and staff may remember long-time head Steve Alger. Session Weekly featured articles about the high school page program and about Steve a few years ago.
The House Public Information Services' Session Daily reported on HF 938, in which the Department of Administration would no longer be required to publish the Guidebook to State Agency Services. The Department has argued that the information is outdated as soon as it is published, and that members of the public rely on each agency's online information. While that's all true, librarians look at the demise of the compilation with a bit of regret. While websites have the latest and most important information, the Guidebook provided a snapshot of all of Minnesota state government at point in time, every four years from 1977-2004.
Because we are asked about state agencies that existed in the past, we'll continue to use the published editions of the Guidebook to State Agency Services. We have many print and electronic resources for historical information on agencies, including the Library's Minnesota Agencies database. This online tool tracks information about the creation and repeal of agencies, task forces, boards, and commissions, and is part of the Library's historical resources online.
When HF 938 was passed by the House, Rep. Sandra Masin argued in favor of taking out a section that would repeal the mandate to produce the Minnesota Milestones report. (Older Minnesota Milestones reports are available electronically here.)
Is the Minnesota Milestones reporting necessary and useful? The question was posed in 2007 and a working group produced an evaluation report in in 2009, Review and Analysis of Minnesota Milestones, as a tool for budgeting under Minnesota Statute 16A.10 subd. 1c. The bill has moved on to the Senate.
Books & Reports
David Schmidtke & Elizabeth Lincoln
Did a 1999 House Rule change affect the number of bills introduced in the House? 1997-1998 House Rule 5.02 limited the number of authors on a single bill to five; House Rule 1.12 in 1999-2000 increased the limit to 35. (The Senate Rules continues to limit the number of authors on a bill to five.) With recent attention to the number of bills introduced (on Almanac at the Capitol last week and this week), we wondered whether this change reduced the number of duplicative House bill totals:
Although there are a lot of factors involved in the number of House bill introductions in a given year--budget issues, partisan makeup of the Legislature, etc.--it doesn't appear the increase in the number of bill authors made much difference!
Article 13 of the Minnesota Constitution requires that “the legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” Minnesota’s efforts to finance the state’s public schools through the years are documented in the timeline, Minnesota School Finance History, 1849-2011.
Even before Minnesota’s constitution was drafted, a plan to provide money for a system of public schools was in place; the federal act that established the Territory of Minnesota set aside certain public lands to be used for the maintenance of schools. The system of school trust lands is still an important source of money for public schools. Information on school trust lands and on the school fund’s performance can be found in the Minnesota School Trust Lands Biennial Report.
In recent years, as the legislature has struggled with repeated budget shortfalls, education funding has been subject to accounting shifts to help balance the state budget. Discussions on how to ‘pay back’ the money are ongoing as legislators work to craft a new budget. A helpful overview of this issue can be found in the legislative report, State Education Funding Accounting Shifts.
At times, it’s specific areas of the public education system that are the focus of attention. Recently, the Office of the Legislative Auditor released Special Education, an evaluation of the administration, costs, and financing of the special education system. Two study groups took a broader look at education finance and produced the reports, Funding Education for the Future and Education Finance Working Group Recommendations and Report.
Public financing of Minnesota’s public schools began in the state’s earliest days and will continue into the future; records of those ongoing efforts will be collected and preserved by the Legislative Library.
Books & Reports
Elizabeth Lincoln & David Schmidtke
Minnesota has always been a state of big thinkers but in the 1970s state leaders had “a vision of massive proportions.” David Gillette, in Almanac at the Capitol, explores a futuristic plan for a domed experimental city to be developed in two northeastern Minnesota counties. For a building price of $10 billion dollars, Minnesota citizens would have had the opportunity to live in a domed city and travel by self-driven cars.
David visits the Legislative Reference Library to explore the grand plans for the city of the future. (A brief summary of the vast project is available here.)
Todd Lefko, a former member of the authority, explains the context for this "vision of massive proportions," as "Of course we could do it. We were Minnesotans. We could do anything."
Books & Reports
Robbie LaFleur's first day at the Legislative Reference Library was March 3, 1986. This picture of Robbie and fellow librarians, Jan LeSuer and Dan Gjelten, was taken in the Capitol soon after she started. I'm sure Robbie would say that the 27 years since this picture was taken went by "in a blink." The thirteen years since she became director went by "in a blink" too.
It's a phrase Robbie uses often and it's a bittersweet one today, Robbie's last day at the Legislative Reference Library. Robbie's tenure as a director has been marked by dramatic changes in librarianship and in the legislative process. Her farsightedness, creativity and practical approach to problems have kept the library and the Legislature ahead of the game. Her peers in NCSL's Legislative Research Librarians staff section recognized her contributions to the field by awarding her with the staff achievement award in 2011.
Please stop by this afternoon to congratulate Robbie on her accomplishments and years of service. (The reception begins at 2:00 with brief remarks at 2:30.)
Legislative librarians are always interested in legislative words. This week, Carol Blackburn had an email question from another state. "Does the Minnesota state legislature permit what's known as "hoghousing"? To hoghouse, a legislator moves to amend an existing bill by deleting everything and inserting all new text."
Carol answered, "That process is used in Minnesota, albeit with a less-colorful name. Here they are known as "delete everything amendments". Here's a description from the Minnesota Revisor's Bill Drafting Manual."
Now online: Minnesota Agencies: Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions
The Legislative Reference Library has collected information on state agencies, boards, task forces, and commissions since the early 1970s. As groups were created, changed names, or ceased through successive administrations, the Library’s collection of press releases and news articles in over 100 binders became a valuable historical resource.
Library staff strive to open as many of our unique materials to web searching as possible. In the past few years, Betsy Haugen in particular has worked to organize the collection and prepare it for a more public unveiling. A subset of agency description records is searchable, over 600 records that have received at least minimal review in the past three years. Some records may be up-to-date; others only have information from earlier years. Records are updated as time allows.
A valuable feature of many records is quick access to membership information through links to the entries in the Secretary of State’s Annual Compilation and Statistical Report of Multi-Member Agencies report. Example: Board of Teaching.
Additional state agency information:
Boards, Commissions, and Other Agencies - List from the office of the Secretary of State.
Creation and Organization of Executive Branch Agencies - Background from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department.
Executive Branch Advisory Groups - Information Brief from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department.
State Agencies, Boards, and Commissions - Links from the Minnesota.gov website.
The Library catalog is an important source of reports by and about agencies, task forces, boards, and commissions.
The Agency Notebook Collection, over 100 volumes, is available in print in the Library. News releases and news articles chronicle changes in and leadership of state agencies, and the creation and membership of boards, task forces, and commissions.
Books, reports, narratives from proposed budgets, and other resources may have information on agencies. Contact a librarian for further assistance.