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It all began in the 1969 legislative session with one librarian, one support staff, a couple of small rooms in the State Capitol, and a handful of reports, newspapers, and magazines. And no computers. The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library now has locations in the State Office Building and the Minnesota Senate Building, six seasoned reference librarians, great support staff, a large collection of unique documents, lots of computers, and an extensive web site. How things have changed!

But one constant through the years has been our great library users. We've been privileged to work with many dedicated legislators and legislative staff and have been continuously challenged with interesting questions from them - and from our many other library users. Our celebration of 50 years would be incomplete without you. Please join us at an open house on Thursday, February 13 from 1:30-3pm to help us celebrate the first 50 years of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

Tom Olmscheid exhibit hanging in LibraryTom Olmscheid is a retired legislative photographer whose work you've likely encountered over the years from his 35 years as the chief photographer for the Minnesota House of Representatives. His work also hangs in the basement of the State Capitol and has been displayed in the Library in the past.

With elections on everyone's mind, including the special election being held in Minnesota today to fill two legislative seats, now is a great time to visit the Library's 6th floor State Office Building location to see a new elections-related exhibit by Tom.

This is how Tom describes his exhibit, "Election Day: People, Process & Paper Ballots":

"On Nov. 4, 1980, as the sun was beginning to rise I began my Election Day picture story at the Afton Town Hall. I had gotten the approval of the Secretary of State [Joan Growe] and the head election judge to be in the polling place during Election Day to do my story. This picture story is about the people, the process and the use of paper ballots. To add interest to the picture story I knew Vice President Walter Mondale would be voting at the Afton Town Hall. 

"It's ordinary citizens that give their time to be election judges. They're at the polling place in early morning setting up, assisting voters while the polling place is open and staying late into the night until all of the ballots are counted and the votes totaled. 

"The process begins when voters register and receive their ballots, mark their ballots and then cast their ballots in the correct ballot box. After the polling place closes the ballots are counted and the vote totals are reported. Election security experts consider paper ballots the most secure form of voting."

If you can't make it this week then next week will be the perfect opportunity to visit his exhibit because the Library will celebrate an important milestone - our 50th anniversary! More details to come, but mark your calendars now for our open house on Thursday, February 13 from 1:30-3pm.

An exhibit of David Oakes' photographs

By Elizabeth Lincoln & Molly Riley

David Oakes has served as the Senate's chief photographer for 35 years. This will be his last legislative session before he retires in June. In honor of his upcoming retirement, some of his favorite photographs are on display in the Legislative Reference Library's Minnesota Senate Building branch in a new exhibit, A Building for All.

Please join us as we honor David's work at a reception (with cookies!) on Wednesday, January 29th from 9:30-11:00am at 3238 MSB.  Stop by anytime between now and June to see the exhibit.

The Library has collaborated with David to showcase his photographs in the past!  In 2013, the Library worked with David to include 156 of his photographs capturing the life of the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s to the Minnesota Digital Library.  His photographs, as part of the Minnesota Digital Library, have also been incorporated into the Digital Public Library of America.  His legacy as a skillful and creative chronicler of Minnesota's legislature will endure for years to come.

 

Representative Lyndon Carlson recently announced his intention to retire from the Legislature at the end of the 2019-2020 session. He became both the longest-serving legislator and the longest serving member of the Minnesota House of Representatives on January 3, 2017, and remains so today. His record will be hard to beat.

By the time he retires in January 2021, he will have served more than 17,500 days, nearly three years longer than the second longest-serving members. There's a three-way tie for second place among three former members: Reps. Carl Iverson, Phyllis Kahn, and Sen. Anton Rockne all served 16,072 days. 

Our service timeline is another way to look at terms of service for current members. This timeline helps visualize things like which members entered the legislature in the same year and which members have served in both chambers. 

Several other long-serving legislators have also announced their retirements, and we track these announcements on our legislative retirements page

Executive Branch Organization

By Elizabeth Lincoln, Molly Riley, and Elaine Settergren

Throughout Minnesota's history, executive branch agencies have come, gone, or been altogether re-worked as the needs of the state and the demands on state government change. Agencies that today we take for granted as long standing entities haven't always been around.

Take for example the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) which has, by that name, only been around since 1976. But of course the state was engaged in transportation matters long before the 1970s. 

A state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1898 authorized the legislature to provide the governor authority to appoint three members to a new State Highway Commission. The legislature took no action until 1905; the State Highway Commission was organized in 1906. About ten years later, in 1917, the legislature abolished the commission and in its place created the Minnesota Department of Highways. That group existed until 1976, when MnDOT, as we refer to it today, was established. 

It's not just the legislature who plays a role in shaping the structure and duties of state government. Since 1969, the Commissioner of the Department of Administration has had the authority, under Minn. Stat. 16B.37, to "transfer personnel, powers, or duties from [one] state agency to another." These transfers are formally made through Executive Branch Reorganization Orders.

Use of these orders has dropped significantly over time, each decade seeing about half the orders as the previous decade: 

Graph showing Reorganization Orders by decade. 108 in the 1970s; 51 in the 1980s; 23 in the 1990s; 13 in the 2000s; and 2 in the 2010s.

But the Legislative Reference Library received one this summer after a nine year hiatus. Reorganization Order #197 transfers some staff and duties from the Bureau of Mediation Services to the Department of Administration. The House Research Department further summarizes this authority in their publication Executive Branch Transfer Authority (2010).

Another set of executive branch documents in the Library's collection are Executive Orders, which also play a role in the work of state government. Often, governors use these orders to create ad-hoc task forces or advisory councils to study and make recommendations about an issue facing the state. A good example from this year is Executive Order 19-02, which established the Governor's Blue Ribbon Council on Information Technology. Though the groups created by executive orders aren't at the level of executive branch departments, they often play a role in informing the work of a department or providing recommendations to the legislature.