Legislative Update: Halfway Through a Short but Busy Session

House bill introductions hit record number for a biennium, but few new laws have yet to reach the governor’s desk.
(Published Apr 9, 2018)

The Minnesota Legislature reached the halfway point in the 2018 session last week as it adjourned for the Easter/Passover recess. As legislators return to St. Paul today, April 9, they face a mountain of potential legislation with only six weeks remaining in the regular session.

Bill introductions reach record high
As of March 29, House members have introduced 4,323 bills over the course of the two-year 2017-2018 legislative biennium, eclipsing the previous record of 4,256 bill introductions during the 2007-2008 biennium, which is an average of more than 32 bill introductions per member.

Senators have introduced 3,884 bills, which is just shy of the 2007-2008 record of 3,895 with six weeks remaining in the session. On average, each senator has introduced nearly 58 bills over the course of the 2017-2018 legislative biennium.

There is no limit to the number of bills that a legislator can introduce, and bills can be introduced until the session adjourns. However, late bill introductions are generally unlikely to receive hearings in committees.

Committee deadlines
The first two legislative deadlines, by which bills must receive favorable actions in policy committees, have passed in both the House and the Senate. During the first deadline week, which ended on March 22, House and Senate committees considered more than 450 bills. The second deadline, which occurred on March 29, included hearings on more than 400 bills.

Although bills that were not favorably reported out of all policy committees in both the House and Senate by the second deadline on March 29 are technically “dead” for the session, authors can seek special dispensation from the committee deadlines in the Rules committees in the House and Senate.

The first two committee deadlines do not apply to the House Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules committees or to the Senate Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration committees. These committees will become a larger focal point for committee activity in the coming weeks. The third committee deadline, which is April 20, is the date by which committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

New chapters of law
Despite the record number of bill introductions, the House and Senate have only sent three chapters of new law to the governor, including new laws to fund the House and Senate, fund the Minnesota Licensing and Registration system, and ratify state labor agreements. All three chapters have been signed into law by Gov. Dayton.

The slow progress on final action on bills is not unusual. During the committee deadlines, the House and Senate generally reserve time for committee hearings, while floor sessions are largely used to process bills for further committee action.

Many bills have completed the committee process and are awaiting action on the House and Senate floors. The House currently has 141 bills on the general register, which is a list of bills that are awaiting floor action, while the Senate has 138 bills on its general orders list awaiting floor action.

League staff will summarize all final legislative activity (and items of city interest that did not become law) in its annual Law Summaries, which will be published in June.

What’s ahead?
The Legislature will now focus on its supplemental budget, a bonding bill and a tax bill, including provisions related to federal tax conformity. The final six weeks will also be punctuated with longer floor sessions as the Legislature approves and sends more legislation to the governor. These longer floor sessions can be a good time to communicate with your legislators via email on issues that are important to your city.

Watch the League Cities Bulletin, Capitol Updates, and action alert emails as the session intensifies over the next six weeks.

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