A bill is a proposal for a new law, a change in current law, repeal of a current law, or for a constitutional amendment. It consists of a title, enacting clause, and body (text), which is examined and approved in its form by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.
In the Senate, bills are called Senate Files. Bills are referred to as House Files in the House of Representatives.
Resolutions are formal actions of the Legislature which express intent on the part of one or both bodies, but are not codified into Minnesota statutes upon passage. Each body can pass a separate resolution to express individual intent. They can also pass resolutions jointly or concurrently.
The Revisor of Statutes Bill Drafting Manual has a chapter that discusses the different types of resolutions and more.
Anyone can—legislators, staff members, state or local agency employees, private groups, or individuals. For more information on drafting, see Guidance on Crafting Amendments. However, only a legislator can introduce a bill or a resolution, and only after the Revisor of Statutes has approved its form. In addition, many Senators and Representatives approach staff members to help them draft a bill. House Research, Senate Counsel and Research, the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, and caucus staff members are often called upon to help.
Any member can introduce a bill. There is no limit to the number of bills and resolutions a member can introduce. However, there are limits to the number of co-authors. In the House, there can be 35 authors; in the Senate, the limit is five. Once a bill is introduced in either body, the chief author may find someone to carry the companion bill in the other body. A companion bill is usually identical when introduced, though each may change independently after introduction. In the House, the Speaker of the House assigns each bill and numbered resolution to one of the standing committees. The Chief Clerk of the House then assigns each bill a House File number, which will identify the bill in its travels. The Senate has traditionally used a somewhat different path to introduction. Bills and resolutions are given a number by the Secretary of the Senate's Office and assigned to a committee by the Senate President.
Once introduced, a bill must travel through the committee process. It goes through the necessary policy committees and, if it has financial implications, a finance committee. Then it is ready to go to the floor. A bill receives three readings before members debate it and take a final vote. Many bills never make it that far. Of the 3,500 bills introduced in the House and Senate each year, only about 15 percent actually become law.
Once a bill has been passed by the House or Senate, the bill must travel to the other body. If the bill is approved by both bodies, it goes to the governor for his approval. If he signs the bill, it becomes law.
How a bill becomes law in Minnesota combines information from the various offices of the Minnesota Legislature on the process of lawmaking in Minnesota.
Under the Minnesota Constitution, Article 4, Sec. 17, only single subject laws may be passed by the Legislature. Theoretically, this requires that only amendments directly related, or "germane" to the measure, be attached to a bill. (The term "garbage bill" is sometimes used when a bill contains what some people feel are unrelated subjects.)
When a bill is being amended in committee, the committee chair rules whether an amendment is germane; on the House floor, the Speaker of the House makes those decisions. In the Senate, the committee chair makes the same rulings, and such decisions are left up to the President of the Senate on the floor. At times the courts have been asked to rule on this matter.
An omnibus bill is a large bill that is generally made up of numerous smaller bills on the same broad topic. For example, an omnibus tax bill may cover various changes in several areas of tax law including income, corporate, and sales taxes. Often the smaller bills are heard in committee and then laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus bill rather than passing each bill separately.
There are no rules limiting bill introductions in either body. However, the Minnesota Constitution does require revenue raising bills to originate in the House. Revenue raising bills may also be introduced in the Senate, but a final bill enacting revenue raising must be a House File.
The best way to explain this is with an example. Say a Senate version of a bill passes the Senate before the House companion bill passes the House. In such a case, the Senate file is transmitted to the House, and if the House companion is still in a House committee, the Senate bill is referred to that same committee. Any further action on that bill is done to the Senate bill, though the committee may insert the House language if there are differences.
If the House companion has already gone through the committee process and awaits action on the floor, then the two bills are "referred for comparison," where they are compared to one another and the differences are reported. If the bills are identical, the Senate bill is substituted for the House version and all future actions are to the Senate bill. If they are not identical, the rules must be suspended to substitute the Senate bill with its differences for the House bill.
In the House, the language of the bill that already has passed the Senate automatically takes the place of the language that was recommended by the House committee. If the chief author wants to go back to the House language, he or she makes a motion to amend and substitute the House language for the language passed by the Senate.
In the Senate, the procedure is different. When a House bill is substituted for a Senate bill on the Senate floor, the Senate automatically places the Senate language back into the bill. The Senate author must then propose an amendment if he or she wishes to use the House language.
Ultimately, both bodies must agree to any changes made to the bills. If they don't agree, the bills go to a conference committee. That committee reaches a compromise that must be accepted by both bodies. However, once a conference committee makes its recommendation, the bill cannot be amended by either the House or the Senate. The only alternative is to accept the conference committee report or send it back to the conference committee for further work.
After both bodies have passed the bill in identical form, it goes to the governor for approval or veto.
Not necessarily. Either body can still take up a bill again as long as the session has not adjourned. In fact, bills are technically alive over the course of a biennium so a bill that was introduced in 2015 and didn't pass could still be discussed until final adjournment in 2016. When a bill fails to get the required number of votes, the author can try to persuade other members to change their opinions on the measure. The only way such a bill can be taken up for a vote again is if a member who voted against the bill is willing to make a motion for reconsideration and the body agrees to reconsider.
In addition, many bills that either don't receive a floor vote or are voted down on the floor end up as amendments to other bills of similar topic.
A veto is the constitutional power of the governor to reject a bill. The bill is returned to the house of origin with a veto message.
A line-item veto is the power of the governor to reject one or more items of appropriations in a bill, while approving the rest of the bill. A pocket veto occurs when the governor fails to sign a bill within 14 days after the Legislature has adjourned sine die (the end of the biennial session), preventing its reconsideration by the Legislature.
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.
Most of the time, the governor has three days to sign a bill or to veto it. The bill becomes law if the governor signs it within those three days. It also becomes law if he or she does not sign it within three days.
If the governor vetoes the bill and the legislature is still in session, the veto can be overridden. This requires a two-thirds vote in the House (90 votes) and Senate (45 votes). The governor also may "line-item veto" parts of a appropriations bill.
At the end of a legislative biennium, the governor has another option. If a bill is passed during the last three days of the session, the governor can "pocket veto" the bill by not signing it within 14 days after final adjournment.
There is no yearly deadline for the introduction of bills. However, each year the Legislature establishes deadlines for committee action on bills by concurrent resolution. 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.
The Minnesota Constitution sets a deadline for the end of each year's session: the first Monday after the third Saturday in May.
Yes, the Legislature can override vetoes, including vetoes of line items, as noted in Article IV, Section 23 of the Minnesota Constitution. The action must receive a two-thirds majority in both houses (90 in the House and 45 in the Senate) in order to achieve this. There is no limit to the privilege, though successfully overriding a veto has been rare over the course of the state's history.
For historical data on vetoes and override attempts, visit the Legislative Library's Web page Bills Vetoed.
In the Senate, a bill remaining on General Orders (General Register in the House), the Calendar, or the Consent Calendar is returned to the standing committee (other than the Committee on Rules and Administration) from which it was last reported to the Senate. Bills must receive a favorable committee hearing again before being returned to the floor the next year. In the second year of a biennium, bills left on the various calendars are considered dead and must be re-introduced the following year. The same procedure applies in the House.
Information about bills from 1995 to the present are available on the Legislature's Bills web page. The Senate Information Office and the House Index office (651-296-6646) can answer this question. It is sometimes more convenient to check the House or Senate Journals and index directly for bill introductions, and Session Laws and index for laws passed. The index section of the permanent Journal for a particular session contains a numerical list of Senate bills and House bills which show official titles, Journal page references, and chapter numbers for all bills passed by the Senate and the House. There is also a subject index with cross references, an author index, and a companion bill list.
The full text of bills from 1995 to the present can be found on the Bills page. Bills from 1957-2002 are on microfilm at the Legislative Reference Library. For bills prior to 1957, contact the Minnesota Historical Society Library.
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