By Lisa Knoop
Now's the time to clean out those closets! We want your used books, DVD movies, books on tape/CD, music CDs, and puzzles for the 2016 Combined Charities Used Book Sale. Drop off your donations at either of these convenient locations by Monday, October 24: the Legislative Reference Library (Room 645 State Office Building) or House Supply (Room G35 State Office Building). Donations from the public are welcomed and appreciated. This is an excellent way to get a tax deduction—receipts for your donations are available upon request.
The Combined Charities Used Book Sale will be held on October 26 and 27 in Room 300S of the State Office Building, and is open to the public.
Minnesota is usually well represented in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Notable Document Awards each year; this year is no exception with four award winners from Minnesota.
The awards are sponsored by NCSL's Legislative Research Librarians staff section. "The award recognizes excellence in documents that explore topics of interest to legislators and staff, and present substantive material in an outstanding format." The Minnesota award winners are:
Flame Retardants and Firefighter Exposure and Health. Minnesota Department of Health Environmental Surveillance and Assessment Section, 2016.
A 2015 Minnesota law required the Minnesota Department of Health, in consultation with the State Fire Marshall, to prepare a report about flame-retardant chemicals and the health and safety effects of exposures, particularly in firefighting settings. With a review of state, federal, and international regulations, a summary of exposure and health findings, and a comprehensive literature review, this document presents a wealth of information on this issue, an issue that has not been studied elsewhere.
Minnesota State Capitol: Overview of the Fine Art. Minnesota Historical Society, 2015.
Each piece of artwork featured in this guide is accompanied by a color photograph, a note about its location in the Capitol, the date installed, a brief description of the piece, and a biographical note on the author.
United States Constitutional Amendment Process: Legal Principles for State Legislatures. (By Matt Gehring) Minnesota House Research Department, 2016.
This report serves as a "reference guide for finding and understanding applicable law related to amending the U.S. Constitution."
United States Constitutional Amendments: Minnesota's Legislative History. (By Matt Gehring) Minnesota House Research Department, 2016.
Of the 33 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution submitted to the states by Congress, 27 have been ratified by three-fourths of the states; Minnesota has ratified 18. This report outlines the amendment process, the procedural issues, and Minnesota's amendment ratification history.
Books & Reports
By Robbie LaFleur
It’s easy to create a list of bills by author in the Legislature’s bill tracking system. How many of them became law? The bills that became law include a number in the “Law” column, indicating that they passed and received a chapter number in the annual Session Laws.
But the list of ‘laws passed’ is not complete – not because the system doesn’t work correctly, but because it is difficult to account for all the ways that language from a legislator might become law.
Some of the bills could have been incorporated into larger bills, such as an omnibus bill. For example, Rep. Kim Norton was the author of HF512 in 2015, establishing a child support work group. That bill did not pass, but the language was incorporated into SF1458, and passed into law, Chapter 71 of 2015.
Many times, when a separate bill is wrapped into a larger bill, a see reference will be listed on the status screen – but that doesn’t always work.
In 2015, Rep. Norton introduced HF39, designating Highway 14 as the Black and Yellow Trail. If you check the bill status system, it appears to be introduced, referred to committee, going no further. But it passed! (See article 3 of Chapter 287, and a photo of a sign on the completed trail.) It received a hearing and was included in the Omnibus transportation bill that year, even though there was no “see” reference in the bill tracking system.
As a legislator, what if you introduce a bill that is never heard in committee, yet it passes in the other body and is incorporated into an omnibus bill during conference committee? Is that your bill that passed?
Sometimes a legislator introduces a bill identical to one or many other bills - clone bills. If your bill is not the one that passes, is it legitimate to still consider the bill as one you have passed? Scott Magnuson, long-time Senate employee and legislation-watcher, has an opinion. He says no. The chief author of the bill that passes is the one who has done the hard part of taking it through all the committees. "If you are the chief author, you have to be passionate," Scott said.
Rep. Norton agrees with Scott that clones or bills that are filed as a courtesy and were never heard should not be claimed as passing a bill. On the other hand, she noted, “Sometimes an author researches an issue, files a bill, and gets a Senate author--but because of committee budgets or partisan politics, it may not be heard. If heard, it may not be included in the House Omnibus bill...BUT your Senate author may have better luck getting it included on the Senate side and it eventually passes. I believe that House author can/should take credit for that bill.”
A list of laws each member passed also doesn’t account for the work of legislators in committees and in floor session, where they track other members’ bills for language that may harm their districts, or craft amendments that help their districts.
While talking about the difficulty of definitive tracking, Scott Magnuson had a recommendation for every legislator who wants to carefully account for their work each session. Get a really good staff person who will track it for you, year by year.
By Robbie LaFleur
In the midst of today's serious floor debates, a little history break:
In today's "This Day in Minnesota History" page, the Minnesota Historical Society featured James Goodhue, founder of the first Minnesota newspaper, The Minnesota Pioneer (forerunner of today's Pioneer Press). It prompted a tweet by Vic Thorstenson, "Unfortunately, for Mr. Goodhue, he looks like he also encountered the first-ever barber in MN territory." That reminded me of an article I recently saw about a barber who practiced in the Central House Hotel in 1849, while looking for information on all the sites in which the Legislature has met. The very first territorial legislature met in the Central House Hotel in St. Paul, in 1849. Maybe Mr. Goodhue, and many of the very first legislators, frequented this barber? This is text from an ad in Mr. Goodhue's newspaper.
"William Armstrong, a Castillian by birth, continues to smooth the countenances of the male public at Central House, amputating the beard with the utmost facility, upon new and scientific principles. He also performs the operation of hair-cutting and hair dressing, in the latest fashion and most approved style of the art. Shampooing in the Asiatic method, as taught in Constantinople, is also his forte. It will be his delight to render these operations as agreeable as possible without the aid of chloroform."
Blegen, Theodore C. "Minnesota Pioneer Life as Revealed in Newspaper Advertisements," Minnesota History, v. 7, no. 2, p. 99-121.
A recent caller to the Library asked for help with the "MyBills" tracking service. It wasn't an IT or system problem - whew. Instead, the person following many bills wanted to learn more about what the notifications meant. "What does it mean if a bill is on the general register? What are general orders?" Perfectly logical questions!
We've updated the MyBills page to help people understand the process, by adding links to important background documents from the House and Senate.
MyBills House actions: General Register, Consent Calendar, Calendar for the Day, Supplemental Calendar for the Day, Fiscal Calendar, and Reports of Standing Committees. For background, see Legislative Procedure in the "Legislative Handbook" from the House Public Information Office.
MyBills Senate actions: General Orders, Consent Calendar, the Calendar, and Reports of Committees. For background, see "Inside the Minnesota Senate" from the Secretary of the Senate.
Here's another version of general orders -- in the historical image, "General Bosquet giving orders to his staff," from the Library of Congress photo archives.