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Library News

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

Learn the names of the brand new legislators and refresh your memory on the returning members by taking the Minnesota Legislator Quiz! Can you get a perfect score?

Screenshot of Minnesota Legislator quiz showing Rep. Igo and 6 choices to match image with name.

Rep. Mary Murphy in 1981January 5, 2021, the first day of the 2021-2022 biennium, marks Representative Mary Murphy's 16,073rd day in office, making her the second longest serving legislator in Minnesota history. Rep. Murphy's time in office now exceeds that of Phyllis Kahn, Carl Iverson, and Anton Rockne, each of whom served 16,072 days. Rep. Lyndon Carlson, who announced his retirement last year, remains the longest serving legislator. 

This milestone also makes Rep. Murphy the longest serving female legislator in state history.  When she took the oath of office in 1977, she was one of 13 women in the Legislature, which was a record at that time.

This year we mark more milestones: a record 72 women will serve in the Minnesota Legislature in the 2021-2022 biennium, and Senator Julia Coleman will be the youngest woman to ever serve in the Minnesota Senate.

Award logoThe Minnesota Legislature's website is a shared work of the House, Senate, and joint offices, including the Library. And we're honored to be recognized by the National Conference of State Legislatures with this year's Online Democracy Award!

The press release reads, 'The Minnesota legislature's website was recognized for its "humongous' amount of content, which is organized and structured in a very user-friendly manner, according to the selection committee. The site designers did a great job focusing on members, bill search and statutes. 'Considering how much information is on it, the website is almost deceptively simple while still being polished—but not overly fancy for fancy’s sake,' the committee said. 'It’s really commendable.'"

Staff from many legislative offices share in the work of maintaining the Legislature's web content. These staff collaborate, contribute content, and regularly consult one another on best practices to make the web experience for legislators, legislative staff, and members of the public as accessible and usable as possible.

A 4th Special Session for the 1st Time

By Elizabeth Lincoln & Elaine Settergren

Earlier this year, many believed that the first special session, called to provide the Legislature with an opportunity to reject Governor Walz's executive order establishing a peacetime emergency related to the COVID-19 outbreak, might last all summer. A 159-day special session in 1971 holds the record for the longest one. Like clockwork, four special sessions have been called this year as the peacetime emergency orders expire. These orders have not broken a record for length, but Friday's special session will break another record: the first time the state has held four in a calendar year.  

Even calling three special sessions in a year is unusual. The three special sessions called by Governor Arne Carlson in 1997 were for a variety of reasons--K-12 funding, flood relief, and funding for a baseball stadium. Those held in both 1981 and 1982 were all called in an attempt to solve the dire financial circumstances the state faced during Governor Al Quie's years in office.

As his peacetime emergency orders expire, the Governor has continued to call a special session. Once the special session convenes, it is up to the legislature to determine the length and actions taken. 2020 is a record breaking year and there may still be more special sessions yet to come!

How Long Will This Special Session Last?

By Molly Riley & Elaine Settergren

Senators discuss a bill on the floor during the 1991-1992 sessionSpecial sessions are often called after an agreement on budget or policy bills, left unfinished during the regular session, has been reached. In those cases special sessions typically only last a few days. This year's special session is being called under unique circumstances as Governor Walz extends the peacetime state of emergency and the Legislature is coming back without a formal agreement on session length or issues to be discussed. With attention not only on the state's ongoing work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but also on policing, the state budget, and an unfinished bonding bill, some are wondering if this summer's special session will be a long one.

If this year's session does turn out to take several days or weeks, then it won't be the only long one in Minnesota's history. The record for the longest special session in state history was set in 1971. It spanned 159 calendar days, though included a 74-day recess in the summer and early fall. Students of Minnesota history will quickly remember that the legislation that came out of the 1971 Special Session was dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle," when the state enacted changes to property tax laws and school financing.

You can read more about the mechanics of special sessions in Special Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature and Making Laws, from the House Research Department. 

Photo: Senators discuss a bill on the floor during the 1991-1992 session. This photo is one of 200 Senate photos from the 1970s to the 1990s included in the Minnesota Digital Library.

The 1918-1919 Influenza in Minnesota

By Molly Riley & Elaine Settergren

Victory Celebration Postponed in Minneapolis due to Influenza - Minneapolis Morning Tribune, November 13, 1918.Outbreaks of influenza (flu), poliomyelitis (polio), diphtheria, and typhoid fever have all impacted Minnesota, especially in the earlier days of statehood. Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, many have wondered about the state’s response to the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919.  

During that outbreak, the first case of flu was discovered in Minnesota in September 1918 and cases peaked during the fall of 1918. In The People’s Heath: A History of Public Health in Minnesota to 1948, author Philip D. Jordan chronicles how flu impacted the state.   

He describes measures taken then that echo our current circumstances in many ways. In 1918, large public gatherings in churches and theaters were prohibited for a time, and health officials strongly recommended schools close, though not all schools did. Dr. Henry Bracken, the head of the State Board of Health, ordered that flu patients could not ride trains without wearing a mask. According to Jordan, public places in Minneapolis, like saloons and soda fountains, remained closed during Armistice Day celebrations in November. 

The Legislature did not meet in 1918 because they only met in odd-numbered years in those days. In 1919, the Legislature met in regular session from January 7 to April 24. Although the Legislature passed a few bills related to public health during the 1919 session (see Laws of Minnesota 1919, chap. 38 and chap. 479), we haven’t been able to determine if those laws were passed in direct response to the flu outbreak. Likewise, there is little reported in the paper about any direct actions taken by the Legislature in 1919 to address the outbreak. In those days, it seems to have been more common for local health departments, sometimes in conjunction with the State Board of Health, to play a leading role in responding to public health issues.

These sources offer a deeper dive into how the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919 impacted Minnesota: