The legislature is one of three branches of state government established by
the constitution. The constitution says: "The powers of government shall be
divided into three distinct departments: legislative, executive, and judicial."
The constitution puts each branch under the control of officials elected
directly by the people—legislators, the governor, and four other executive
branch officers, and judges.
To each of the three branches the constitution grants
certain powers, to be exercised by that branch exclusively, except as the
constitution provides otherwise: “No person or persons belonging to or
constituting one of these departments shall exercise any of the powers properly
belonging to either of the others except in the instances expressly provided in
Minn. Const. art. III, sec. 1;
art. IV, sec. 1;
art. V, sec. 1;
art. VI, sec. 1.
These constitutional provisions express a principle, called
separation of powers, which is common to the federal constitution and all state
constitutions. Under this principle, the power of the state is divided among
three partly self-governing branches of government, each directly accountable to
the electorate and substantially in charge of its own affairs.
The constitution also divides the legislature internally into two houses
(called a bicameral legislature) and dictates the name of each house: “The
legislature consists of the senate and house of representatives.” Other states
use different names for some of these institutions: General Assembly, Assembly,
House of Delegates, General Court. Only one state among the fifty—Nebraska—has a
Minn. Const. art. IV, sec. 1.