Legislators will have to hit the ground running if they want to get work done in 2016 — they face the latest start-date for the regular session in recent memory.
The 2016 legislative session is scheduled to begin March 8, and with a constitutionally mandated end date of May 23, lawmakers have just 55 legislative days in which to get the job done. A legislative day is different than a calendar day, and lawmakers have a total of 120 days within the two sessions – they used up 65 last session - so there’s not a lot of time until the gavel comes down to end biennium.
Odd vs. Even
Why is this year’s session so short and so late? To answer that question, you have to look at what traditionally differentiates the first, or odd-numbered, year of a biennium, and the second, or even-numbered, year.
The Legislature’s most important task in an odd-numbered year is to create the state’s biennial budget, but in the second year of the biennium, like 2016, the Legislature’s focus is usually on capital investment.
That bonding law helps fund state and local infrastructure improvements, and in recent years tops out at nearly $1 billion in projects.
Historically, these bonding sessions are shorter and tend to start later than odd-year sessions. This year, however, the length of the session is being somewhat determined by the Capitol renovation project. The building will only be open for House floor sessions and there will be no running water or indoor toilets.
Public access to the capitol this year is limited because of the ongoing restoration project. However, the House of Representatives is making every effort to provide public access to what is happening on the House Floor and in committees.
If you are planning a visit to your legislator or would like to attend a hearing, first visit the Department of Administration web page, to learn where to park, and how to view the legislative happenings.
However, there are several ways that you can stay informed. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to follow House action the nonpartisan way:
This session, besides having the ability to watch the Legislature at work on your local public television Minnesota Channel, House Floor sessions and selected committee hearings will be streamed live on the House website.
Stay connected with your representative
To access your representative's page, go to the House of Representatives website. Click the “Member Information” link, which can be found along the left side of the page. You will find yourself on the “House Member Information” page. Next, click on “List of all members of Minnesota House of Representatives.” You will then find yourself on a page listing House members with their contact information. Click on your member’s name and you will now be on his or her House page.
Many Legislators are also active on social media — find a list of current House members on Twitter here.
The latest numbers are a $517 million swing from the November forecast
The state’s latest economic forecast projects a budget deficit of $188 million for the current two-year biennium, and a $586 million deficit for the 2020-21 biennium
The budget process explained — and why it matters