legislation > how a bill becomes law
The State of Minnesota follows a process to pass state laws. A general overview of the Minnesota process is explained on this page. The links below (from State websites) describe the bill-making process in more detail.
A bill starts with an idea.
The main point of the "process" is to turn the idea into law (making the idea legal) by moving it through two legislative bodies: the Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House of Representatives.
These two legislative bodies are made up of legislators who represent communities throughout Minnesota. The State is divided into 67 political districts with each district having one Senator and two Representatives, all of whom are voted into office by the residents (called constituents) of that district.
There are a total of 67 Senators in Minnesota, and 134 Representatives. These legislators are known as law-makers because, through their votes, they can determine what ideas become laws. Constituents, by talking with legislators, can help shape their opinions.
For maps showing the district boundaries and other details, go to: MAPS
NOTE: Minnesota is divided into districts for state legislators (legislative), who meet and conduct work at the State Capitol in St. Paul, and for federal legislators (congressional), who represent the State of Minnesota in Washington D.C..
The legislative process for creating and passing a bill is not precise. There are numerous variables, twists and turns, and starts and stops during the process.
The diagram below is a general overview of the process.
One of the main points to remember are deadlines. At the beginning of each session, deadlines are posted which clearly state what dates must be met during that particular session for a bill to be passed.
Five other general points to keep in mind:
Every bill has an author in both the Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House of Representatives ("House"). The authors introduce their bill and each bill is assigned a file number. The authors request committee hearings for the bills, speak at hearings, educate legislators about the issue and bills, and guide the bills through the process. When first introduced, the bill's language is the same in the Senate and House and the two bills (House File and Senate File) are known as companion bills.
Every bill must pass through one or more committees (by stated deadlines) in both the Senate and the House of Representatives for it to move forward. The number and type of committees may vary based on the language within the bill. Committees are considered experts on different subject matters. (Every legislator sits on specific committees, based on their interest and/or expertise.) The Committee Chair determines whether a bill is granted a hearing. A hearing allows a bill to be "heard" by committee members, where public and expert testimony are given. Please note:
The Senate and House are two distinctly different bodies. As the bill passes through the different House and Senate committees, changes (amendments) to the bill's language can be made by committee members. Legislators who sit on the House or Senate committees may not have the same opinions or viewpoints, so amendments between the two bodies may differ. This means even though the language in the two bills may start out the same, it may change during the process.
4. Full Legislature: Senate and House of Representatives
The Minnesota Legislature has 201 members, made up of 67 senators and 134 representatives. If the bills pass through the House and Senate committees, all state legislators will have an opportunity to vote for or against the bill. For a bill to pass the full Minnesota Senate, 34 "yes" votes are needed. For a bill to pass the full House, 68 "yes" votes are required. Once passed, the bill is submitted to the Governor. Please note:
The Minnesota Governor can choose to veto a bill or sign it (and it becomes law).