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Library News - MN History

How Long Will This Special Session Last?

By Molly Riley & Elaine Settergren

Senators discuss a bill on the floor during the 1991-1992 sessionSpecial sessions are often called after an agreement on budget or policy bills, left unfinished during the regular session, has been reached. In those cases special sessions typically only last a few days. This year's special session is being called under unique circumstances as Governor Walz extends the peacetime state of emergency and the Legislature is coming back without a formal agreement on session length or issues to be discussed. With attention not only on the state's ongoing work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but also on policing, the state budget, and an unfinished bonding bill, some are wondering if this summer's special session will be a long one.

If this year's session does turn out to take several days or weeks, then it won't be the only long one in Minnesota's history. The record for the longest special session in state history was set in 1971. It spanned 159 calendar days, though included a 74-day recess in the summer and early fall. Students of Minnesota history will quickly remember that the legislation that came out of the 1971 Special Session was dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle," when the state enacted changes to property tax laws and school financing.

You can read more about the mechanics of special sessions in Special Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature and Making Laws, from the House Research Department. 

Photo: Senators discuss a bill on the floor during the 1991-1992 session. This photo is one of 200 Senate photos from the 1970s to the 1990s included in the Minnesota Digital Library.

The 1918-1919 Influenza in Minnesota

By Molly Riley & Elaine Settergren

Victory Celebration Postponed in Minneapolis due to Influenza - Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 13, 1918.Outbreaks of influenza (flu), poliomyelitis (polio), diphtheria, and typhoid fever have all impacted Minnesota, especially in the earlier days of statehood. Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, many have wondered about the state’s response to the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919.  

During that outbreak, the first case of flu was discovered in Minnesota in September 1918 and cases peaked during the fall of 1918. In The People’s Heath: A History of Public Health in Minnesota to 1948, author Philip D. Jordan chronicles how flu impacted the state.   

He describes measures taken then that echo our current circumstances in many ways. In 1918, large public gatherings in churches and theaters were prohibited for a time, and health officials strongly recommended schools close, though not all schools did. Dr. Henry Bracken, the head of the State Board of Health, ordered that flu patients could not ride trains without wearing a mask. According to Jordan, public places in Minneapolis, like saloons and soda fountains, remained closed during Armistice Day celebrations in November. 

The Legislature did not meet in 1918 because they only met in odd-numbered years in those days. In 1919, the Legislature met in regular session from January 7 to April 24. Although the Legislature passed a few bills related to public health during the 1919 session (see Laws of Minnesota 1919, chap. 38 and chap. 479), we haven’t been able to determine if those laws were passed in direct response to the flu outbreak. Likewise, there is little reported in the paper about any direct actions taken by the Legislature in 1919 to address the outbreak. In those days, it seems to have been more common for local health departments, sometimes in conjunction with the State Board of Health, to play a leading role in responding to public health issues.

These sources offer a deeper dive into how the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 impacted Minnesota: 

What is the History of Presidential Primaries in Minnesota?

By Robbie LaFleur, updated by Elaine Settergren

Stack of Newspaper Clippings

The Minnesota Legislature has passed a presidential preference primary law four times; three were repealed. Four presidential preference primaries have been held: 1916, 1952, 1956, 1992, and soon a fifth will be held: 2020.

1913

Governor Eberhart promoted the presidential primary in his inaugural speech in 1913, and the Legislature passed a law that year, Chapter 449.

1916

The primary was held on March 14 (election results). Winners: Democrat, Woodrow Wilson; Prohibition, William Sulzer; Republican, Albert B. Cummins

Two days before the election, the Duluth News Tribune wrote about the upcoming contest, including "The crazy quilt presidential primary has befuddled everybody from the rummy to the justices of the Supreme Court."

In 1947, former Morning Star Tribune reporter Charles Cheney recalled the primary in "The Story of Minnesota Politics: Highlights of Half a Century of Political Reporting." "Minnesota tried the presidential primary once, in 1916, and that was enough. It was a lot of grief and expense.... The 1917 Legislature repealed the presidential primary freak, and few tears were shed."

1917

The law was repealed, Chapter 133.

1949

A presidential primary was established by Chapter 433, approved April 14.

1952

The primary was held on March 18 (election results). Winners: DFL, Hubert Humphrey; Republican, Harold Stassen

G. Theodore Mitau wrote about the primary in his 1970 version of the textbook Politics in Minnesota. "Stassen had led in the Minnesota Republican presidential primary, and most of the state's convention delegates were officially pledged to him. But a write-in campaign for Dwight D. Eisenhower, launched just a few days before the state primary, had resulted in what came to be called the "Minnesota miracle." With almost none of the advance publicity Stassen had enjoyed, and without the approval of the national Eisenhower organization, the campaign was phenomenally successful; 108,692 voters took the trouble to write in Eisenhower's name on the ballot, while Stassen, whose name was printed thereon, received only 20,000 more votes, 129,076."

1956

The primary was held on March 20 (election results). Winners: Democrat, Estes Kefauver; Republican, Dwight Eisenhower

Minnesota Politics and Government, a 1999 textbook by Daniel Elazar, Virgina Gray and Wyman Spano, explained: "In the 1956 presidential primary the leaders of the DFL tried to deliver the state for Adlai Stevenson by virtually dictating to the rank-and-file DFLers that they vote for him in the name of party unity. The spontaneous reaction of the voters was to give Estes Kefauver the victory, a message pointed toward Hubert Humphrey."  See also: "Primary History '56 Free-for-All Contest Had it All," by Jim Parsons, Star Tribune, Jan. 19, 1992.

Entire chapters were devoted to this primary race in Coya Come Home: A Congresswoman's Journey by Gretchen Urnes Beito (Los  Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1990) and Hubert Humphrey: A Biography by Carl Solberg (St. Paul: Borealis Books, 2003).

1959

The presidential primary law was repealed, Chapter 67

Iric Nathanson wrote about the 1952 and 1956 primaries in a 2008 MinnPost article, "Political Mischief: Minnesota's 1950s Experiment with Presidential Primaries." About the repeal, he wrote, "The mainly Republican conservatives controlled the state Senate, and they moved first to vote repeal with only minimal debate. But repeal was more controversial in the House, where the liberal caucus, composed of DFLers, was in control. There, a repeal vote was delayed when primary supporters, many of whom had backed Kefauver in 1956, pushed unsuccessful to conduct one more direct primary in 1960 before scuttling the 1949 law entirely. But now DFL leaders were concerned that a 1960 primary, which permitted cross-over voting, could embarrass Hubert Humphrey and his bid for the 1960 presidential nomination." 

1989

A presidential primary bill, authored by Sen. Ron Dicklich, passed the Senate 48-16, and then the House 117-10, Chapter 291.

1990

Changes were made to the law. The date was pushed back from the last week in February to April 7, and voters were required to declare themselves for a particular party in order to get a ballot. Chapter 603. (Background: "Minnesota Primary Law Aims at Increasing Clout," by Gerald Kopplin, Hibbing Tribune, May 9, 1990)

1991-1992

The House and Senate voted to repeal the presidential primary, but Governor Arne Carlson vetoed the bill. His veto message described his support for a presidential primary. The Senate voted to override the veto, 56-9, but the House failed to override the veto, 77-49. See the veto page for detailed information. The primary remained in place. For background information, read: "The $4 Million Beauty Contest: Primaries and Caucuses 1992: Power to the People, Sort of," Roger Swardson, City Pages, February 26, 1992.

1992

The primary was held on April 7, 1992. Winners: DFL, Bill Clinton; IR, George H. W. Bush (election results). For more details, see: "Primal Yawn: Nation, and Most State Voters, Ignored Controversial Primary," by Dane Smith, Star Tribune, April 9, 1992.

1995

The presidential primary was put on hold until after 1999. More about the hold is described in: "Hopes Dashed for Presidential Primary, Election Overhaul," Jack B. Coffman, Pioneer Press, May 19, 1995).

1999

The presidential primary law was repealed in Chapter 250, Article 1, Section 115.

2016

Minnesota will move from a presidential caucus to a presidential primary for the 2020 election, Chapter 162.

2020

The presidential primary will be held March 3, 2020 on "Super Tuesday." This year, Minnesota will be one of 14 states with a primary on that day.

The Library has additional sources of information on the four Minnesota presidential primaries, including many news clippings on the 1992 primary and discussion of the issue during that decade. Another good source is for this timeline is: Dr. Eric Ostermeier's article for his Smart Politics blog, "A Brief History of Presidential Primaries."

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.

It's a Budget Year

By Molly Riley

chartMarch in an odd-numbered year is a perfect time to remind you of the Library’s state budget resources. We regularly compile historical resources that provide context and perspective on issues of importance to the legislature and state government. Two new resources we published this fall provide historical perspective on the state budget.

Major Appropriation and Finance Bills and Laws, 1995-present is a handy resource this year. Relying on sources from the House Fiscal Analysis Department, Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis, and the Library's vetoes database, we compiled a chronological list of major appropriation and finance bills and laws from 1995 to the present, including bills that received line item or full vetoes. This page makes it easy to pull up transportation finance bills from the past ten years, or to compare a vetoed version of an omnibus appropriations bill with the one that was signed into law.

The second resource to note is our Minnesota Governor's Proposed Biennial Operating Budget page, which includes digital versions of proposed operating budget documents back to the late 1990s. (Older proposed operating budgets are also available in print in the Library.) This page provides quick access to Governor Walz’ proposed budget documents for FY2020-2021, alongside those of former governors. These two new pages complement our Minnesota Governor’s Proposed Capital Budget page, which includes digital versions of all proposed capital budget documents back to 1975.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.)

Fellow citizens,

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.