Here's how laws are made in Minnesota – and how they can be derailed


The 2015 legislative session begins Tuesday, offering the state's elected lawmakers a chance to introduce, tweak and pass new laws that will affect Minnesotans going forward.

How this gets done is a multistep process that, at times, seems overcomplicated and convoluted. But there are actual rules being followed. Here's a simple (or, as simple as it can be) step-by-step look at how a proposed law moves through Minnesota's Legislature.

The basics

On a very basic level, Minnesota has three pieces of the government that have to agree in order to make something a law.

There's the state Senate, which is made up of 67 senators elected from around the state.

There's the House, which is made up of 134 representatives from around the state.

These two pieces – the chambers, as they're often referred to – are the initial creators.

(The third piece is the governor, but we'll get to that later.)

Committees: What they do

A proposed law (formally called a bill) basically starts out in a committee, a select group of lawmakers that are tasked with handling bills based on subject, such as taxes or wildlife. There are committees in both the Senate and House.

In those committees, the lawmakers can make changes (called amendments), and eventually take some sort of action.

Among the actions:

  • They can vote and pass the bill, moving it along to the full chamber.
  • They can vote against the bill, snuffing it out right there.
  • They can vote to move it to another committee. (Sometimes several committees have to weigh in on a bill, which can stall the process.)
  • They can not vote at all and simply move it to the chamber for a full vote.
  • Or they can decide not to vote, which leaves the bill stuck – if a proposal can't get pushed out of the committee, the House and Senate can't vote on it, and it can't become a law.

Then, a full vote

If the bill doesn't get stuck, it goes to the full chamber, where all of the lawmakers have a chance to make more tweaks before actually voting on it.

Eventually, they have to decide no more amendments are needed, and a final vote can be cast.

A proposal needs 68 votes to pass the House and 34 votes to pass the Senate. Both chambers have to pass the bill before it can (probably) become law.

Sometimes, the bill passed in the House and Senate are the same – they're called companion bills. If that's the case, the bill goes straight to the last step.

Other times, the bill passed in the House and Senate end up being different – sometimes in just a tiny way. When that happens, a handful of members from both chambers have to get together, hammer out the differences and then send the bill back to the Senate and House for another full vote.

The last step: The governor

The governor is the third and final piece.

If voted through by both chambers, he or she gives the final approval by signing it, or vetoes the bill. The House and Senate can overrule the veto if both chambers get at least two-thirds of their lawmakers to vote for the overrule.

That's the basic rundown.

If you want more details, check out this link from the Legislature's website.

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