The Executive Council was established by the legislature in 1925 (Laws 1925 Chap. 426 Art. 2). It originally consisted of the governor, attorney general, state auditor, state treasurer, and secretary of state. The lieutenant governor was added to the council in 1973 (Laws 1973 Chap. 394). The council appoints an executive secretary who also served as secretary of the Pardon Board and the Investment Board until 1959 (Laws 1959 Chap. 263 Sec. 13). The council assumed the functions of the Board of Timber Commissioners, the Board of Deposit, the State Land Commission, and the State Board of Relief. It was also responsible for issuing permits to prospect for ores on state-owned lands, a duty previously vested in the auditor, the treasurer, and the attorney general under the provisions of Laws 1921 Chap. 412. In addition, the council was given responsibility for entering into contracts related to the mining and disposing of iron ore in the state as assigned to the governor, attorney general, and auditor under the provisions of Laws 1917 Chap. 110.
In 1929, the legislature abolished the State Capitol Grounds Commission and transferred its duties to the Executive Council (Minn. Laws 1929 Chap. 124 Sec.1).
The council designates depositories for state funds and settles claims regarding federal land grants. It has emergency powers to take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence or spread of disaster and to grant relief to communities or individuals affected by a disaster in conformance with federal relief laws. In 1961 the council was given the additional responsibility of receiving and administering rural rehabilitation trust funds transferred to the state in accordance with the provisions of Public Law 81-499 (Laws 1961 Chap. 755). Other miscellaneous functions include cancellation or compromise of claims due the state, regulation of state timber business, approval of reforestation and drainage work, approval of acquisition of land for camping or parking areas, sale or exchange of lands with the federal government and between state government departments, approval of regulations for mineral leases, issuance of iron ore leases, approval of transfer of control of dams, and approval and consent for dam construction.