Post by Shannon Watson, SPACC Director of Public Affairs
The Minnesota legislature has a few dates that guide its work. The most important is the constitutionally-mandated adjournment date – no later than the Monday after the third Saturday in May. This year, that date is May 21st.
As of this writing, there have been 3,816 bills introduced in the House of Representatives, and 3,377 bills introduced in the Senate*. Bills can, and are, introduced anytime during the session – often all the way up until the final day. Many bills don’t even receive a hearing, but to become enacted into law, bills need** to move through the committee process. Occasionally you’ll hear about bills meeting or missing “first deadline” or “second deadline” or “third deadline” – those are the dates that the legislature uses to narrow down their scope of work for the year. Of course, like most rules, these have exceptions. Deadlines don’t apply to bills that have to go through Capital Investment, Ways and Means/Finance, Taxes, or Rules.
"The first deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin."
This means the bill needs to get a committee hearing (House bills in House Committees and Senate bills in Senate committees) and pass through the committee, or be “laid over for possible inclusion” which is when a bunch of little bills are bundled together in one big omnibus bill. If it passes or is laid over, the bill has met the first hurdle and can continue. This year, first deadline is March 22.
"The second deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house."
Once a bill passes its own committee, it needs to pass the other body’s committee that deals with the same subject. The House and Senate both have committees that deal with all of the same subjects, although it’s not a perfectly mirrored system. Some committees have different names and some have slightly different jurisdictions. If a House bill meets first deadline and then gets a favorable hearing in a Senate committee (or vice versa), it has met the second deadline and can continue. This year, second deadline is March 29.
"The third deadline is for committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills."
This is the deadline specific to bills that deal with money. This year, third deadline is April 20.
If a bill doesn’t meet its deadline but gets a favorable hearing in committee, the Rules committee can override the other deadlines and let it proceed.
*Since the Minnesota legislature works on a biennial – 2 year – system, bills are in play for the duration of the two years. A bill that is introduced on day 1 year 1 doesn’t have to start the process over on year 2. Conference Committees (which are made up of members from the House and Senate who work out differences between their versions of the same bill) also still meet. At the end of the two year session (when they adjourn “sine die”) is when everything stops, and bill numbers start back up after the election at House File 1, House File 2, etc.
**Bills are never really dead until “sine die”, and can bypass the committee process by becoming an amendment on to another bill, which is called a “vehicle”. This often happens late in session when legislators are moving things quickly in the last few days.
Have a question about the legislature? Let Shannon know and maybe you’ll see it answered here!