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The Legislature's website has a fresh new look!  After months of work by a dedicated team of legislative programmers, the new site was rolled out over the weekend. 

The programming team included Chris Cantey (Legislative Coordinating Commission), Mike Schatz (Legislative Reference Library), Max Carlson (House Chief Clerk's office), Matt Burress (House Research), Ariel Zannou (Senate Information Systems), and Isaac Holmlund (Revisor of Statutes).   Also thanks to Krista Sheely (Senate Information Sytems), Mike Speiker (House Chief Clerk's Office), and Jason Judt (Revisor of Statutes).

It's back by popular demand!  Learn the names of the brand new legislators and refresh your memory on the returning members by taking the Minnesota Legislator Quiz! Can you get a perfect score?

 

29,000 legislative tapes!

By Elizabeth Lincoln


Library staff are excited to announce a new searchable database of 29,000 legislative audio files covering 1991-2003!

Until recently, tracking down the history of legislation often involved a trip to the Legislative Reference Library (LRL) or the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)--or both! Before the Legislature began recording meetings digitally in 2004, all audio was recorded on cassette and reel-to-reel tapes.  Interest in researching these primary materials has not waned--legislative staff, state agency staff, attorneys, and private citizens continue to use these rich primary research materials.  But, the tapes were inconvenient to use and they took up enormous amounts of space at LRL and MHS.  

A 2017 appropriation allowed the Legislative Reference Library to undertake the digitization of 29,000 audio tapes.  This digitization project and resulting database enhances the existing collection of digital hearings and floor sessions, making these valuable primary records of the Legislature accessible to anyone at any time and preserving them into the future.  Researchers are now able to listen to all committee hearings and floor sessions back to 1991. The database draws upon other sources of information such as House and Senate floor logs and committee members for each standing committee.

For further information on researching legislative proceedings, consult the Legislative Reference Library’s legislative history guide and resource list or contact a librarian at 651-296-8338 or by email.

 

Fiscal Review

By David Schmidtke

The Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis publication, Fiscal Reviewis one of the most heavily  used publications in the Legislative Reference Library. The Library’s paper copies are lovingly worn and the digital archive, reaching back to the first publication in 1975, is an invaluable resource. 

The 2018 Fiscal Review provides detailed coverage of the budgetary actions of this year's legislative session. Of course, the capital investment and the pensions bills are the main focus of this year's fiscal activity, but this year's edition also takes a look at the vetoed Omnibus Supplemental Finance and Omnibus Tax Bills. Two other budget issue are discussed that impacted the 2018 fiscal legislation as well: The Governor’s line-item veto of the FY2018-19 Legislative Appropriation and the creation of the nonpartisan Legislative Budget Office.

To celebrate the recent release of the 2018 edition of Fiscal Review, the office of Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis invites you to the satellite office of the Legislative Reference Library (3238 MSB) on Wednesday, September 26th at 10:30 am.  Doughnuts will be served!

Discover Ebooks at the LRL

By Elaine Settergren

 

Have you heard about the free, online Ebook collection created for all Minnesotans? Ebooks Minnesota has over 5,000 books for readers of all ages – fiction and nonfiction, with a special focus on Minnesota’s independent publishers.

It’s easy to start reading. Open Ebooks Minnesota in your computer browser (such as Chrome, Edge, or Firefox). If you prefer to read on your phone or tablet, download the Biblioboard app in Google Play or the BiblioBoard app in the App Store. You’ll automatically see the option to be connected to the Ebooks Minnesota collection if you are anywhere in Minnesota. Titles that may catch your eye include:

  • North Country: The Making of Minnesota
  • A Boundary Waters History: Canoeing Across Time
  • Partisan Gerrymandering and the Construction of American Democracy
  • Doorstep Democracy: Face-to-Face Politics in the Heartland
  • Minnesota’s Miracle: Learning from the Government that Worked
  • Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear
  • The Art of War: The Oldest Military Treatise in the World
  • Land of Amber Waves: The History of Brewing in Minnesota
  • A History of Professional Hockey in Minnesota: From the North Stars to the Wild
  • Morgan Park: Duluth, U.S. Steel and the Forging of a Company Town
  • The City, the River, the Bridge: Before and After the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
  • Hinckley and the Fire of 1894
  • Minnesota Mayhem: A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

Ebooks Minnesota is brought to you by Minitex and made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Department of Education through a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

 

Elaine wrote the following article for the Minnesota IT Services blog on accessibility issues. She is a librarian at the Legislative Reference Library and also serves as the Accessibility Coordinator for LNET (Legislative Networking Group).

The Minnesota Legislature’s website is the unified effort of staff from the House and Senate and several joint legislative offices including the Revisor of Statutes, the Legislative Reference Library, the Legislative Auditor, and other offices within the Legislative Coordinating Commission. Legislative staff from the various offices collaboratively manage the website through the LNET (Legislative Networking Group).

LNET manages the content and design of the Legislature’s website and acts as a forum for all legislative offices to share and discuss issues. The group meets year-round to continuously improve usability and content on the legislative web pages. LNET members act as consultants for one another on issues of technology.

While each body and office manage distinct websites, many legislative website activities are collaborative. Offices share data to make pages that include information from multiple offices, such as the combined calendar, the conference committee page, and MyBills.

Much of the Legislature’s website, which consists of web pages and PDF documents for download, is compliant with the state accessibility standards and many of its documents posted from 2017 to the present are accessible, or the information is provided in an alternative accessible format such as HTML. Like many organizations, large amounts of older materials may not meet accessibility standards and may require a large dedication of resources if the older material is to be remediated. Legislative staff continue to work toward increasing the accessible online presence of the Minnesota Legislature’s website.

The website is coded so that it is usable by keyboard and with a screen reader, which includes use of jump navigation, alt text, heading tags, and meaningful link language. The Legislature uses popular tools such as WebAIM’s WAVE to test for accessibility. IT staff from the legislative offices are currently coordinating to transition the website to Bootstrap, a web interface framework, that will improve the way it works on diverse screen sizes.

Many materials, such as bills, session laws, statutes, and rules, are available in HTML as an alternative to PDF. Several legislative offices publish reports and use CommonLook software to remediate PDFs, when applicable. Tagged PDFs are offered when possible. Because the nature of legislative work is complex, fluid, and fast-paced, tagged PDFs may not be immediately possible. An additional accessibility challenge for the Legislature is that some documents that are submitted for posting come from public citizens or non-legislative entities and are not electronically accessible. For specific documents that may not be accessible, the Legislative Coordinating Commission facilitates requests for remediation to make the documents accessible.

Audio and video archives are continually expanding on the Legislative website. Streaming video programming is captioned in both the House and Senate. Recent Senate video files have searchable captions. In addition, the House is exploring ways to possibly make transcripts of audio files available.

It isn’t new for party endorsing conventions to be full of twists and turns. They’re as interesting today as they were fifty years ago, and we were reminded of this last week when we received a donated copy of a book we’ve long had in our collection: The 21st Ballot: A Political Party Struggle in Minnesota. The book, written by David Lebedoff and published in 1969, chronicles a turbulent time within the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party starting in late 1965 and running through the election in 1966. That year, Governor Karl Rolvaag lost to a relatively unknown Republican Party activist named Harold LeVander.

The copy we received contained an inscription from former Governor Rolvaag with an interesting note: “… some day I must write to correct some substantial errors." James Pederson, reviewing the book later that year, wrote: "These flaws, while serious, do not discredit The 21st Ballot as a well-written work ...[capturing] the emotion, excitement, and drama that the political events of 1966 held for most Minnesotans."

Proving that both parties have their struggles, There is No November details Jon Grunseth's candidacy for the office of Governor of Minnesota in 1990. The political intrigue included a tough Republican primary battle between Grunseth and State Auditor Arne Carlson, and two post-primary allegations of improper conduct against Grunseth. They were facing incumbent Governor Rudy Perpich. If you don't know how it turned out, check our Minnesota Governors historical table.

Representative Paul Thissen was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to the Minnesota Supreme Court on April 17, 2018, replacing Justice David Stras. Sixteen other Minnesota legislators have served on the Minnesota Supreme Court:

Name Minnesota Legislative Service Minnesota Supreme Court Service Notes
John Berry

Territorial House 1857;

Senate 1863-1864

Associate Justice 1865-1887  
Kathleen Blatz House 1979-1994

Associate Justice 1996-1998;

Chief Justice 1998-2006

 
Daniel Buck

House 1866;

Senate 1879-1882

Associate Justice 1893 -1899

He was elected to the Supreme Court in 1892 for a term that started in January 1894, but another judge resigned and he was appointed to take his place before his elected term started.

Loren Collins

House 1881-1884

Associate Justice 1887-1904  
Francis "F.R.E." Cornell House 1861-1862; 1865 Associate Justice 1875-1881  
Wallace Douglas House 1895-1898 Associate Justice 1904-1905  
Charles Flandrau Territorial Council 1856

Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court Associate Justice  1857-1858; 

Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice 1858-1864

He was also a member of the Territorial Democratic Constitutional Convention in 1857.

Alexander "Sandy" Keith Senate 1959-1962

Associate Justice 1989-1990;

Chief Justice 1990-1998

He also served as Lieutenant Governor from 1963 to 1967. He is believed to be the first person to serve in all three branches of Minnesota state government (Star Tribune 7/7/1990).

William Mitchell House 1859-1860 Associate Justice 1881-1900  
C. Donald Peterson House 1959-1962 Associate Justice 1967-1986  
Peter Popovich House 1953-1962

Associate Justice 1987-1989;

Chief Justice 1989-1990

 
Walter Rogosheske House 1943-1948 Associate Justice 1962-1980  
Albert Schaller Senate 1895-1914 Associate Justice 1915-1917  
Robert Sheran House 1947-1950

Associate Justice 1963-1970;

Chief Justice 1973-1981

 

Thomas Wilson

House 1881-1882;

Senate 1883-1886

Associate Justice 1864-1865;

Chief Justice 1865-1869

He was a member of the Territorial Republican Constitutional Convention in 1857. He is unique for having served as a legislator after his time on the Minnesota Supreme Court, rather than before.

Lawrence Yetka House 1951-1960 Associate Justice 1973-1993  

 

Three Minnesota legislators served on other states' territorial supreme courts: 

  • Warren Bristol (Minnesota House 1866; Minnesota Senate 1867-1869) served on the New Mexico Territorial Supreme Court from 1872-1885. Notably, he presided over the New Mexico trial of "Billy the Kid." 
  • Alonzo Edgerton (Minnesota Senate 1859-1860; 1877-1878) served on the Territorial Supreme Court of Dakota, was a U.S. Senator for Minnesota, and was a member of the South Dakota Constitutional Convention.
  • John North (Minnesota Territorial House 1851; Minnesota Republican Constitutional Convention 1857) served on the Nevada Territory Supreme Court. He also served on the Nevada Territory State Constitutional Convention.

In early Minnesota history, there were other leaders who served both as part of the constitutional convention and as justices on the supreme court: 

  • Bradley Meeker was not a Minnesota legislator but was a member of the Territorial Democratic Constitutional Convention in 1857. He served on the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court as an Associate Justice from 1849-1853.
  • LaFayette Emmett was a member of the Territorial Democratic Constitutional Convention in 1857 and served on the Minnesota Supreme Court as Chief Justice from 1858-1865.

Three Minnesota Supreme Court justices, Aaron Goodrich, Andrew Chatfield, and Moses Sherburne served in other state legislatures, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Maine respectively. Moses Sherburne was also a member of the Minnesota Territorial Democratic Constitutional Convention in 1857.

 

Today is the first day of session and you will want to make sure you know all 201 legislators--take the Minnesota Legislator Quiz!  Can you get a perfect score?

Governor Mark Dayton announced last week that he will appoint Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to fill out the term U.S. Senator Al Franken plans to vacate in early January.  Article V of the Minnesota Constitution states, "the last elected presiding officer of the senate shall become lieutenant governor in case a vacancy occurs in that office."  Since 1974, the governor and lieutenant governor have been elected jointly—rather than separately--and have been of the same party.  This change was the result of a constitutional amendment question on the ballot in 1972.

Current Senate President Michelle Fischbach is a Republican and Governor Mark Dayton is a Democrat, raising the question—how many instances in Minnesota’s history have the governor and the lieutenant governor been from different political parties?

Using lists of governors and lieutenant governors from the Legislative Reference Library and Minnesota Historical Society, Legislative Reference Library staff found five time periods when the two positions were held by individuals of different parties.

1899-1901    Governor John Lind was a Populist-Democratic-Silver-Republican when he served as governor from January 2, 1899 to January 7, 1901.  Governor Lind served his entire term with Republican Lieutenant Governor Lyndon Smith although Lieutenant Governor Smith’s tenure extended until January 5, 1903.

1905-1909    Two Republican lieutenant governors served under a Democratic governor.  Governor John A. Johnson served from 1905 until his death on September 21, 1909.  Governor Johnson’s two Republican lieutenant governors were Ray W. Jones (January 5, 1903 to January 7, 1907) and Adolph O. Eberhart (January 7, 1907 to September 25, 1909).

1915    Democratic Governor Winfield Hammond’s brief, one-year tenure as governor (January 5 to December 30, 1915) was in tandem with Republican Lieutenant Governor J.A.A. Burnquist.  Burnquist began serving as lieutenant governor two years earlier on January 7, 1913.  Governor Hammond’s death on December 30 elevated Burnquist to governor and Sen. George Sullivan, also a Republican, to lieutenant governor.

1936-1937    Farmer-Labor Governor Hjalmar Petersen served from August 24, 1936 until January 4, 1937 with Republican Lieutenant Governor William B. Richardson.  The pair were elevated to their positions due to the death of Governor Floyd B. Olson.  William Richardson was not sworn into the position of lieutenant governor and served concurrently in the Minnesota Senate.  Although Hjalmar Petersen served as a Farmer-Labor governor, he ran for other offices under different parties.  Before he ran for the Minnesota Legislature he had been a member of the Republican Party.  Later in his career, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican Party endorsement for governor in 1946 and an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsement to run for the U.S. Senate in 1958.

1961-1963    From January 3, 1955 until January 8, 1963, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Lieutenant Governor Karl Rolvaag served under two governors--one of a different party.  Rolvaag first served under fellow DFL Governor Orville Freeman from January 5, 1955  to January 2, 1961.  He then served under Republican Governor Elmer Andersen from January 2, 1961 until January 8, 1963.  The gubernatorial recount kept Republican Governor Elmer Andersen in office between January 8, 1963, when DFL Lieutenant Governor A.M Keith took office, and March 25, 1963, when Karl Rolvaag was deemed the winner.   Once again, the governor and lieutenant governor were of the same party.

See the Library's President and President Pro Tempore of the Minnesota Senate list for other instances of Presidents of the Senate becoming lieutenant governors through succession.

See the Smart Politics blog post, Minnesota On Eve of Rare Governor and Lieutenant Governor Partisan Split, for an analysis of the amount of time the top two constitutional offices in Minnesota have been occupied by members of different political parties.

(We made every effort to be complete.  Please notify the Library if you have additions or errors to report.)