Why our state legislature may matter more
than Congress

Updated 12/29/16

There are 7,382 state senators and representatives in our country’s 50 state legislatures. In their 2015-16 legislative sessions, they passed a total of 29,122 bills into law. Over the same two years Congress enacted just 199 new laws.

Minnesota’s 201 legislators passed and Gov. Dayton signed into law 184 bills during our 2015-16 biennial session. These state laws impact every corner of Minnesotans’ lives. For example, new laws

  • lawAllow pharmacists to dispense a 90-day supply of a prescription drug. 
  • Permit termination of spousal maintenance when the party receiving spousal maintenance is living with another person.
  • Require a license from the Board of Cosmetologist Examiners to apply, remove, or trim eyelash extensions.
  • Allow pet owners to set aside funds in a pet trust to be used after they die for the care of their animals.
  • Remove the limitation on the number of physician assistants a physician is allowed to supervise.
  • Allow a mentally or physically impaired person to stay in a temporary dwelling on a relative or caretaker’s property.
  • Eliminate the five-day waiting period for marriage licenses.
  • Allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol beginning at 8 a.m. Sundays.
  • Require a technician to obtain proof of age from clients who state they are 18 years of age or older before performing any body art procedure on a client.
  • Allow eligible patients to use a drug that has successfully completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial but has not been approved for general use by the FDA.
  • Permit banks to hold raffles where tickets are earned by making deposits into savings accounts. 
  • Extend the statute of limitations for identity theft to five years.

Legislatures are not only productive and wide-ranging. They also move fast. For most there are just a few months to introduce a piece of legislation, discuss it in one or more committees, pass it with a floor vote in two chambers and get a governor’s signature. Minnesota’s recent biennial session was nineteen weeks in 2015 and eleven weeks in 2016.

questionmarkblue2Is passing more laws necessarily a good thing? Conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke said, “I vote Republican because they have fewer ideas.”

How to stay in touch with legislative activity

Learn who your state senator and representative are here.senatechamber

Sign up to receive information daily about committee schedules, floor session agendas and more.

Watch legislative activity live on TV all day Monday through Friday on TPT’s Minnesota Channel beginning January 3.

Get Senate and House TV and webcast schedules and video archives here.

Learn how the process works and how to participate, how to search for or follow a bill and much more on the legislature’s website.


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