Minnesota House door opens to new members

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Election Day puts an end to campaigning, but pre-session planning kicks into high gear.

During the first year of the biennium, not only are representatives-elect getting acclimated to their new duties, but there is a lot of organizing that takes place. Office space is assigned, staff members are hired, caucus leadership is elected, and committees are organized and assigned members. Many tasks related to legislating have deadlines that are defined in the Permanent Rules of the House.

The 88th session of the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 8, 2013. Here’s an overview of the work expected to be completed before session begins, as laid out in the Legislative Information Manual, produced by House Public Information Services:

Election of Caucus Leaders

Usually within a week or two after the general election, members from each party meet on an informal basis to organize and elect leaders for their individual caucuses. Each caucus can nominate a speaker-designate (the speaker is officially elected by the members of the entire House on the first day of session. The presumed speaker is the person chosen by the majority party). The majority caucus also elects a majority leader and a majority whip, and the minority caucus elects a minority leader and minority whip. Selection of assistant leaders is done by each caucus, but the time and manner of this selection process varies from biennium to biennium and caucus to caucus.

Current House Minority Leader Paul Thissen of Minneapolis was named the DFL speaker-designate and Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul was named majority leader. House Republicans elected Rep. Kurt Daudt of Crown as minority leader.

With leadership set, the hard task of preparing for work of the legislative session really begins.

Committee Chairs and Committee Assignments

The number of standing committees and their areas of responsibility are set at the beginning of each biennium by the speaker of the House. Under the House rules, 30 days before a new session convenes, the speaker-designate submits to the leader of the minority caucus this information along with the number of minority caucus members to be appointed to each committee.

The speaker names the chairs, vice-chairs and members of each committee. Following the general election, each member may indicate which committee she or he prefers. Generally, members serve on three or four standing committees, but assignments per member can vary from session to session. Majority caucus members submit requests directly to the speaker-designate (the nominee of the majority caucus). The minority caucus members make their requests through the minority leader, who submits recommendations for minority representation on the standing committees to the speaker-designate at least 15 days before convening a new session.

Committees are balanced with respect to party, occupation and geographic area represented by the members of the House.

Due to scheduling conflicts, assignment to one committee may preclude another committee assignment.

House Rules and Joint Rules

The state constitution provides for each house of the Legislature to establish its own rules of procedure. Each biennium, the House does this by adopting the Permanent Rules of the House, which are drafted by the Committee on Rules and Legislative Administration early in the session. Until the new rules are adopted, the House adopts the rules of the previous session as temporary rules. Proposed rules can be amended on the House floor.

In addition, Joint Rules of the Senate and the House are adopted. The Joint Rules apply when the House and Senate meet together in joint convention, in conference committees and in procedural matters that must be the same in both houses.

Click here for a slideshow from New Member Orientation 2012.