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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.


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!

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

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.