Minnesota’s Legislature meets for only part of the year, usually from January to May. In the first session following November elections in even-numbered years, the House and the Senate must agree on a two-year budget and send it to the Governor for approval.
The first step to getting a bill passed comes well before the legislative session even begins. Once you have an idea for a proposal, you need to gather support for it, find a legislator to author your bill and get support from leadership to make sure it gets a hearing and can move through the process. Committee chairs have a great deal of power over the process, so you need them on your side. Work with them and their staff months before the session begins to get your bill in the queue.
Because 5,000 bills can be introduced in a session, you can’t assume legislators have heard of your bill. Schedule a meeting with all the relevant committee members early in the session to tell them about the bill and why you’re asking for their support and help.
The committee hearings are important to showcasing the need for your bill and how your bill helps solve the problem, but it’s just the beginning of the process. The most critical part of a bill making it to the Governor’s desk is surviving the conference committee process. This happens in the last few weeks of the legislative session – usually in May – and involves a few members from the House and the Senate coming together to work out their differences. This is where the real negotiations take place. It’s very important to stay in close contact with all the conference committee members during this time to make sure your bill gets in the final agreement.
A relatively small number of bills actually pass the Legislature in any given year, so you must continuously advocate for the proposals you support. It’s a complicated process, but it can be done!