Since 2004, all Minnesota House and Senate hearings and floor debates have been digitally recorded and archived. Researching legislation prior to 2004 requires a trip to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (LRL) or to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)--or both--to listen to audiotapes.
But soon that will change! In 2017, the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library received an appropriation to digitize 28,000 tapes of legislative committee hearings and floor debates. The Library is seeking proposals by July 14, 2017 for the digitization of the audiotape collection. Further details are available in the request for proposal.
The House and Senate began recording all committee hearings and floor sessions in the mid-1970s. The tapes were collected by LRL and, when space became an issue, older tapes were gradually transferred to MHS. By the early 1990s many of the tapes were deteriorating and a number of years of tapes were destroyed. The Minnesota Historical Society can no longer accommodate the 18,000 tapes currently housed there and began making plans several years ago to return the tapes to the Legislative Reference Library. The 2017 appropriation allows the digitization of all existing legislative hearing and floor debate tapes. Digitization of these auditotapes will make the primary records of the Legislature accessible to anyone at any time and preserves these recordings into the future.
A question legislative librarians are often asked in the waning days of legislative sessions is, "Can the Minnesota Legislature pass bills on the final day of a regular legislative session?". And each year, we research the question yet again to make sure we are providing the correct answer.
Minnesota's Constitution, Article 4, Section 21 states in part, "No bill shall be passed by either house upon the day prescribed for adjournment." When that section of the constitution was written, the constitution also established that the Minnesota Legislature would meet in regular session in odd-numbered years. With a single-year session, the "day prescribed for adjournment" was apparent.
Things changed in 1972 when Minnesota voters approved a proposed constitutional amendment to establish flexible, biennial sessions. (Minnesota House Public Information Services published an informative article in 1991 about the history of flexible sessions in Minnesota.) With the inaugural biennial legislative session in 1973/1974, for the first time in state history there was a "final" day in the first year and a "final" day in the second year. Were both days considered the "day prescribed for adjournment" per the state constitution? Or was the final day of the second year the official adjournment day? The question was answered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in its 1974 decision, State v. Hoppe: "... May 21, 1973 was not the day of final adjournment ... but was merely a temporary interim adjournment during the unitary biennial legislative session".
One final note. Since the advent of flexible sessions, the Legislature has met in regular session in each year of the biennium. But Article 4 Section 12 of the state's constitution does not mandate yearly sessions. It's possible that some future legislature will meet only one time during a biennium and that there will once again be a single, final "day prescribed for adjournment".
Minnesota has, at length, been permitted to take her place in the Union “upon equal footing with other states”. Congress, by a solemn act of legislation, approved by the President, has recognized her as a sovereign and independent member of the Confederacy—free, henceforth, from the trammels of Territorial vassalage, and bound by no allegiance to any earthly power outside her own limits, except to the Federal Union, to the extent prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. --Honorable H.H. Sibley, Governor of the State of Minnesota. Message to a joint convention of the Legislature, June 3, 1858.
So began Gov. Henry Sibley’s address to the legislature and the people of Minnesota following Minnesota’s admittance as the 32nd state of the Union on May 11, 1858. While a day of celebration, the governor used the occasion to express sentiments of frustration with the actions of the U.S. Congress regarding Minnesota’s statehood application:
But, while it is a subject of congratulation that Minnesota is now a State in the Union, she has just ground of complaint that her admission has been so long delayed. … For this state of things Congress is responsible. Having followed the course pointed out to us with scrupulous exactness, we had organized our State Government … and we presented ourselves to the National Legislature with full confidence that the pledges made us would be faithfully redeemed. How was our application received? Our Senators and Representatives were repulsed--our expostulations were unheeded—and the humiliating spectacle has been presented to the world… simply because it subserved the purposes of Congressional politicians to allow her to remain suspended, for an indefinite period, like the fabled coffin of the false prophet, between the heavens and the earth.
Whew! It’s good to be reminded that statehood didn’t just happen. It was the culmination of years of hopes, dreams, hard work, anger, frustration, and persistence. Today, May 11, 2017, we celebrate that historical event—and the unbroken bond that links today’s Minnesotans and today’s state government with those first citizens of Minnesota as they celebrated statehood on that Spring day in 1858.
The Library's legislator quiz--developed last year for new Library staff--proved to be very popular with staff, lobbyists, and legislators! The quiz has been updated and improved for the new session - you can now select all current legislators or focus on either the House or the Senate.
Play the quiz!
Representative Lyndon Carlson surpassed a number of records today! He is now the longest serving House member - ever. He is also the longest serving member in the history of the Minnesota Legislature.
Three former legislators are tied for second-longest-serving legislator. Phyllis Kahn is the second longest serving member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and is tied in length of service with two legislators who served in both bodies--Anton J. Rockne and Carl Iverson. (Anton J. Rockne has the longest Senate tenure.) Check out the length of service for all legislators including those who have served just one day!