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Library News - Legislature

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: 

Legislative Proceedings in Unusual Circumstances

By Molly Riley, Elaine Settergren, and Elizabeth Lincoln

Senate Floor Session showing social distancing, April 7, 2020A few years ago we wrote about the rare occasions the Legislature has met in session outside a State Capitol building. Minnesota has had three Capitol buildings, all located in St. Paul, since the first was built in 1853. In 1881, after the first State Capitol caught fire, the Legislature met in Market House in downtown St. Paul. During the most recent renovations to our current Capitol, the House and Senate held floor sessions in committee hearing rooms in the State Office Building and the Minnesota Senate Building, reconfigured into chambers to suit the needs of a floor session. 

While we haven't found any evidence that the House or Senate have ever held floor sessions outside the city of St. Paul, the Legislature has held committee and informational hearings outside St. Paul many times over the years, including this year. The House and Senate have also held mini-sessions throughout the state.

In all these cases - floor sessions, committee hearings, informational hearings, mini-sessions - participation has largely been an in-person affair. But as the Legislature seeks to adhere to social distancing guidelines in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, this session has looked much different.

The pandemic has prompted unusual House and Senate floor sessions this week. Senators rotated into the chamber in small groups to cast votes on a bill. The House allowed members to participate remotely by phone. It has not been unusual to see legislators and staff wearing face masks.

And last week the House of Representatives held its first hearing primarily through "remote participation" by both legislators and testifiers. The newly established House Rule 10.01 makes this possible, and the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee was the first House committee to hold a meeting since the rule was adopted.

The Senate has also been holding meetings remotely. The Senate’s COVID-19 Response Working Group has scheduled several meetings to discuss aspects of the global pandemic, using videoconferencing software to facilitate and broadcast those meetings. This week the Senate adopted SR229, which will allow for remote committee hearings to take place in that chamber as well.

Photo credit: David J. Oakes

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."

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.

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.

READ Posters

By Elizabeth Lincoln

Senator Dahms is pictured in front of a backdrop of the Minnesota State Capitol while holding the book John Adams by author David McCullough.  The word READ is spelled out in all capital letters at the top of the image. David Bowie is featured in jeans and a high school letter jacket reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky in front of a white background. Large red letters at the top spell out READ. Representative Kristin Bahner is pictured in front of a backdrop of the Minnesota State Capitol while holding the electronic book Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen.  The word READ is spelled out in all capital letters at the top of the image. The American Library Association created their popular celebrity READ posters in 1985.  Bette Midler, Paul Newman, and Steve Martin were featured in some of the earliest posters, but you're most likely to remember the classic 1987 poster featuring David Bowie, which graced the walls of many public and high school libraries.

The Minnesota Library Association recently paid a visit to the State Capitol and photographed nineteen House and Senate members with favorite books for their own series of READ posters.  Around here, these might become the David Bowie posters of their time!

The legislators featured are Rep. Paul Anderson, Rep. Kristin Bahner, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, Rep. Robert Bierman, Sen. Karla Bigham, Rep. Greg Boe, Sen. Jim Carlson, Rep. Jack Considine, Sen. Gary Dahms, Sen. Scott Dibble, Rep. Rob Ecklund, Sen. Nick Frentz, Rep. Bud Nornes, Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, Rep. Fue Lee, Rep. John Petersburg, Rep. Dean Urdahl, Sen. Chuck Wiger, and Rep. Dan Wolgamott.  Come see which books they chose as their favorites--and which legislator is featured with his own published work of fiction.

The READ posters will be on display in the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (State Office Building location) until summer. 

 

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.