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In 2019, the Legislature established a legislative staff working group on accessibility measures to address the course of action for digital accessibility standards in the Minnesota Legislative branch in Laws of Minnesota 2019, 1st special session, chapter 10, article 5

Staff from the House, Senate, and joint offices have been meeting regularly since late summer 2021. They’ve surveyed legislative staff, elicited a business process mapping project to identify how digital information is used in the committee process, contracted an audit with a third-party accessibility audit company, and have been writing a report to the Legislature, which is due in January of 2023. 

The meetings have included digital accessibility training from various sources. Presentations and feedback from stakeholder organizations, executive branch agencies, and other states through a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) presentation have been significant pieces of input that the working group has received. The Working Group has heard presentations from stakeholder organizations such as the Disability Council, State Services for the Blind, MNIT Office of Accessibility, and the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing. 

Among training offered to working group members, the Library has collected a few recent books, which you also may enjoy reading: Approachable Accessibility: Planning for Success by Martine Dowden explains the importance of digital accessibility and goes on to explain how to engage your team, create an action plan, and the resources you’ll need along the way. Another recent addition to the Library shows state-level legal requirements and policy by state. Much of this information is about state executive branch and public higher education compliance: 2021/2022 State and Federal Accessibility Guidelines

The required report will assist the Legislature in its work making legislative information more digitally accessible.

A photo grid showing pictures of four Minnesota legislators from the pastOur Legislators Past & Present database is a rich source of biographical information and includes all 5,353 individuals who have served in the Minnesota Legislature -- a number that will soon grow as we look ahead to the start of the 93rd Legislature.

In addition to biographical details and specifics about a member’s legislative service, the database includes photographs of members when available. Many of the photographs in our database were originally printed in the Minnesota Legislative Manuals. While all Minnesota Legislative Manuals are available digitally, the scan resolution was not high enough for us to include additional images from those publications in our database without some extra work. We've partnered with the Minnesota Digital Library in recent years to include more than 3,000 photographs scanned from those publications specifically for inclusion in our database.

Until recently, many legislators were still not pictured in our database. This summer and fall, Library staff worked on filling some of those gaps and have now incorporated more than 2,500 photographs from 13 additional Legislative Manuals. 

Among those newly pictured are Sen. Laura Naplin (1927-1934), the first woman to serve in the Senate; Rep. Rosanna Payne (1927-1932), Rep. Harriet Weeks (1929-1932), and Rep. Bertha Hansen (1939-1940), some of the earliest women to serve in the House; Rep. Coya Knutson (1951-1954), who, after serving in the House, went on to be the first woman to represent Minnesota in Congress; and Rep. Charles Munn (1927-1934), who served one term as House Speaker and was the only speaker since 1905 not pictured in our database.

In addition to Rep. Coya Knutson, we've now added photographs of several other state legislators who also served in Congress: Rep. Victor Christgau (1927-1928), Rep. Dewey Johnson (1929-1934), Rep. James Bede (1931-1932), Sen. Henry Teigan (1933-1934), Rep. Richard Gale (1939-1940), Rep. Rick Nolan (1969-1972), and Rep. Betty McCollum (1993-2000).

The Library plays a vital role in preserving the history of the Minnesota Legislature as an institution. Legislators Past & Present is one of our richest and most unique resources, and expanding the photographs in this database -- which now total more than 8,500 -- enables researchers to better visualize Minnesota’s past.

An image of a cover of the report Language Use in the United States by the Census Bureau.Minnesota has proportionally fewer immigrants compared to the nation as a whole, but we have long been a state shaped by immigration. In 2020, about eight percent of Minnesotans were foreign-born, but that percentage was as high as 37 percent in the late 1800s.

While English is the most common language spoken at home in the United States, many different languages are spoken in homes across the country.  Census takers with the U.S. Census Bureau began asking about languages spoken at home in 1890 and have continued collecting this information to this day.  A report issued in August, Language Use in the United States, contains the latest numbers from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey Reports.  While the Census report doesn’t break down state data in great detail, it does note that 12.3% of Minnesotans age 5 years and over speak a language other than English at home. 

According to the Census Bureau, “the primary purpose of collecting language data is to measure the proportion of the U.S. population that may need help in understanding English” so government agencies and other organizations can use the information to determine language assistance needed.

A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Education is designed to help educators and policymakers respond to the needs of Minnesota students.  While the top languages spoken at home nationally after English are Spanish, Chinese, and French—the outlook in Minnesota is different.  English Learner Education in Minnesota: 2020-21 Report reports that the top languages spoken at home after English are Spanish, Somali, and Hmong, reflecting immigrant groups that have settled in Minnesota in recent years.

Contact us with questions, for research assistance, or to borrow these reports or any of the materials on this month's list: library@lrl.mn.gov or 651-296-8338.

Uniform Crime Report

By David Schmidtke

Since 1935, the Minnesota Legislature has mandated the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), to collect statistics on crime data from Minnesota law enforcement agencies. The 1934 Biennial Report of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported statistics on the crimes we are familiar with today, but also included “Adultery,” “Circulating false rumors about banks,” and “Defrauding an inn keeper.” Interestingly, there were 32 bank robberies in 1933 for a total loss of $125,383.40, with $4,773.19 recovered. The next year, 1934, only reported seven bank robberies, for a total loss of $13,327.23. A Minneapolis Tribune column from December 1934 attributes the decline in bank robberies to the persistent efforts of both federal and local police officers to break up "bandit gangs."

To this day, the BCA continues to publish crime statistics under the title Uniform Crime Report. While it no longer reports on crimes of “Adultery,” “Circulating false rumors about banks,” and “Defrauding an inn keeper,” it is rich with statistics on crimes of violence, property crimes, and firearms discharge and uses of force. Crime statistics fluctuate over years, but the 2021 Uniform Crime Report lists that there were 33 bank robberies that year, only beating out 1934 by one robbery.

This last year, the BCA launched a related interactive database, the Minnesota Crime Data Explorer. According to the BCA, this database contains more detailed information from which current crime data can be obtained at any time.  It also contains summary data about the most serious offense associated with an incident, more details on all crimes associated with an incident, as well as detailed data about victims and offenders.


Photo by House Public Information Services

Redistricting always brings a slew of legislative retirements -- district boundaries may shift dramatically, incumbents may be paired with a colleague in the same district and decide not to run, or legislators see an opportunity to run for a different office. And some legislators, as with any election cycle, simply decide to leave elected office. This redistricting cycle is no exception. There are 47 legislators -- many long-serving -- who will be leaving the Legislature this year. You may find it interesting to compare this year's retirement list with the list of retirements in 2012 -- the last time legislative districts were redrawn.

Some of those 47 individuals are pursuing other elected office, but most won't be on the ballot in November. In addition to these departures, 11 current House members are seeking election to the Minnesota Senate, and one current Senator is seeking election to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Although it is more common for House members to seek a seat in the Senate, many Senators served in the House after terms in the Senate. (Several news sources are reporting 59 members retiring which includes the 12 seeking a seat in the other body.)

The primary and general election outcomes will almost certainly mean that this list of departures will grow. Though election rates for incumbents seeking re-election are high, our turnover data show those rates, compiled since 1970, have never been 100%!

Those with keen eyes will spot some former legislators on the Secretary of State's candidate filings list. So it remains to be seen how many "true freshman" we'll see in January 2023, when the 93rd Legislature gavels in a new session.

The Chandelier is lit in the dome of the State Capitol dome.

One recent article, and one that’s often requested from the Library, was written by former Assistant Revisor of Statutes Anne Sexton. In “A Lawyer's Guide to the Minnesota Legislative Process” from Bench & Bar of Minnesota, she provides a “roadmap for bills,” tips about statutory notes, headnotes, tracking session law changes, how to use Minnesota Statutes chapter 645, and more. She also includes a few paragraphs about the usefulness of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library’s Mandated Reports Database for “understanding future policy dynamics or quickly gathering information on a topic without going through a government data request.” In addition, she explains that the legislative process is complex and even the most seasoned legislative staff person or legislator can have questions about the process. 

We use several sources when answering questions involving the complexities of the legislative process. Many questions can be answered by consulting the Legislature's Frequently Asked Questions About the Minnesota Legislature. For example, do you need to be reminded of the definition of a legislative day or a pocket veto? Or is a bill dead if it fails on final passage? Hint: Not necessarily

Sometimes the questions are more intricate. Senate Counsel, Research, and Fiscal Analysis' Legislative Process In Minnesota provides a solid overview. We also look to House Research's Making Laws for insider-baseball-level questions. We won’t name any names, but one long-time lobbyist carries a copy with her at all times!  

LCC-GIS logoThe first Legislative redistricting plan was released today by the chair of the House Redistricting Committee, which marks a milestone in the redistricting processes. Over the course of the redistricting process, several plans will be released and considered. Each plan will be posted to the Legislative Coordinating Commission's Geographic Information Services (LCC-GIS) site: 2021 Redistricting Plans

The Library's redistricting guides can help you get up to speed on the process and highlight how these maps have been drawn in recent decades. The Redistricting 2020 guide is being regularly updated as the process unfolds in the coming months. A parallel resource to keep an eye on is the Redistricting 2020 page from the LCC-GIS office. 

As legislative aficionados know, the House Redistricting Committee and the Senate Redistricting Committee have been meeting this year and have more plans to meet in the coming months. Tune in to committee hearings in the House and Senate to stay current with this year's process. View recordings from past 2021 meetings of these committees, for any that you've missed. 

Both Minnesota legislative staff and Minnesota documents received recognition from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) this year. 

Betsy HaugenThe Library's own Betsy Haugen earned the 2021 NCSL Legislative Research Librarians Staff Achievement Award! Betsy’s unwavering commitment to the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, NCSL, and the Legislative Research Librarian Staff Association is widely known and recognized among her peers. She has spent nearly 20 years with the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, where her strength as a leader and her commitment to a collegial atmosphere is evidenced in the growth of the staff she supervises and the cultivation of strong relationships with other legislative offices. 
 
Betsy's involvement with NCSL spans many years, including service on the Legislative Research Librarians Executive Committee from 2016 to 2019 and time on the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee. Serving in these roles has allowed her to develop and participate in a number of staff annual Professional Development Seminars and NCSL Legislative Summit meetings. She’s well-respected by those who participate in NCSL staff associations and known for her leadership and mentorship mindset. Her patience, warmth, energy, and leadership have touched many across the nation. 

The NCSL Legislative Research Librarian Staff Association also recognized two documents from Minnesota among this year's Notable Document Award winners. A report from the Minnesota Department of Human Services earned recognition: We Definitely Struggle... The Worry is Always There: Improving the Health of People Living in Deep Poverty. The report is the work of a two year collaboration between the department and other state agencies that concluded in the spring of 2020. The authors interviewed 30 Minnesotans living in poverty and include real-life examples throughout the report to bring across the different types of stress that living in poverty brings with it. They offer some specific ideas for improving the effectiveness of a few income support programs. 

The second Minnesota report recognized by NCSL this year was on a topic that has received growing attention in recent years: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force: A Report to the Minnesota Legislature. In 2019, the Minnesota Legislature created the task force to study the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The group found that while Indigenous people make up 1% of Minnesota's population, 9% of all murdered girls and women in Minnesota from 2010-2019 were Indigenous. The task force's final report is well-organized and well-researched, and identifies the root causes of these inequities and opportunities for public policy changes. Since the release of this report, the Legislature has created the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, "dedicated to preventing and ending the targeting of Indigenous women, children, and two-spirited people."

Join us in congratulating these Minnesota honorees!

Staff working in House television production roomOver the past year, as legislative operations have shifted and evolved in light of the pandemic, House Public Information Services and Senate Media Services have worked diligently to continue providing the public access to legislative proceedings, and to expand and enhance online content. Both offices increased live stream capacity dramatically to address the realities of remote committee hearings. The House now offers five live streaming channels, up from two in previous sessions, and on any given busy session day broadcasts up to 18 hearings. The Senate provides four live streaming channels, also an increase from previous sessions. And both offices have made video captioning accuracy a priority.

In light not only of this recent work, but also the many years' work before the pandemic, Library staff nominated Barry LaGrave, House Public Information Services Director, and Steve Senyk, Senate Media Services Director, for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information's John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award, and they and their offices are one of this year's recipients! This award is given to those "whose work in defense of the public's right to know has made a difference in Minnesota." Staff working in Senate television production room

These two offices, under Barry and Steve's leadership, have made robust contributions to providing access to legislative information in Minnesota for many years, but their recent work has been especially remarkable. The past year has required quick thinking, sudden adaptations, creativity, attention to detail, teamwork, and expanded infrastructure, all of which these two offices brought to bear in their work.

Join us in congratulating House Public Information Services and Senate Media Services on this award! An online awards ceremony will be held on Monday, March 15, 2021. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Photo credits: House Public Information Services and Senate Media Services.

Minnesota State Capitol, February 2021

The Legislature has a new system to track issues regarding digital accessibility on the Legislature's website. The Minnesota Legislature Accessibility & Usability Comment Form allows users to submit information about digital accessibility issues they've encountered. The consolidation of digital accessibility comments allowed by this form will assist legislative staff in responding to major issues encountered across the many offices of the Legislature on a case-by-cases basis. Although legislative staff will not directly respond to each and every comment individually, the form will allow staff to gather a sense of patterns of issues and staff will use the comments to prioritize digital accessibility improvements. 

Additionally, the input will assist the not-yet-formed Legislative Employee Working Group on the Legislature's Accessibility Measures as required by 2019 Laws of Minnesota 1st Special Session chapter 10, article 5, section 5. The Working Group will convene in 2021 to help move the Legislature toward its 2024 goal of compliance with digital accessibility standards.

Of course, this comment form is not a replacement for an accommodations request. Those who need accommodations, such as American Sign Language interpretive services, in order to participate in legislative proceedings should continue to follow the accommodation request instructions as detailed in the Legislature's FAQs for Disability Access or contact the LCC.

Photo credit: Senate Media Services