Skip to main content

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

  • Author:
  • Updated:

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.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 10.21.38 PM

Sound of shots, mass panic at Richfield football game streamed live on YouTube

Gunfire caused panic at a varsity football game Friday night.

J. Gordon

K-9 search leads to $36K fentanyl seizure during traffic stop

A traffic stop was made after the vehicle was seen speeding through the area.

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 5.20.08 PM

Gov. Walz reacts to Tuesday death of Mankato West student

The governor is a former geography teacher at the high school.

court room

Teen pleads guilty to Minneapolis carjacking, admits to others

The man was yanked out of the vehicle by witnesses before fleeing the scene.

Federal court house

Three plead guilty to roles in murder on Red Lake Reservation

The 2019 murder left another person seriously injured.


Sheriff: Heifer shot and butchered on farmer's pasture near Aitkin

Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.


Minneapolis murder suspect arrested in Wisconsin

The man has been wanted by police since the shooting happened in April.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

Charges: Man kidnapped woman at gunpoint, forced her to withdraw $1,500

The 56-year-old suspect is accused of forcing the woman to the Seward neighborhood in Minneapolis.

police lights

Police arrest suspect in Oakdale after 10-hour standoff

The standoff with police lasted over 10 hours Friday.

WHS_SHPO_Canoe 2_Recovery054

Oldest canoe ever found in Great Lakes region excavated in Wisconsin

The boat was recovered in Lake Mendota on Thursday.


5 Minnesota cities to visit for the best of fall colors

Time it right and you can make multiple trips across the fall.