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Minnesota Legislature on Pace for Most Days in Session by Decade

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One of the reasons cited by Governor Tim Pawlenty in his recent declaration that there will be no special session this year to resolve the state's budget crisis, is that he does not believe residents of the Gopher State should endure the additional costs associated with calling the legislature into session for additional days (or weeks) at the Capitol.

Putting aside any strategic benefits that may have factored into the Governor's decision to make such a declaration (divesting the DFL leadership of some of their policy-making power), the fact is the Minnesota Legislature is already on a record pace to mark the 2000s as the decade with the most legislative days in session in state history.

According to a Smart Politics analysis of Minnesota Legislative Reference Library records, the state legislature has been in session for 557 legislative days during the 82nd through 86th Legislatures (2001-2009) through Monday's final day of 2009's regular session.

With the regular session set to resume in 2010 on February 4th, those 557 days already rank as the 3rd most in state history per decade, just two days behind 1991-2000 (559 days during the 77th - 81st Legislatures), and 24 days shy of 1971-1980 (581 days during the 67th - 71st Legislatures).

That record will be eclipsed in 2010.

The Minnesota Legislature has averaged 50 legislative days in session in even-numbered years this decade. Adding that number of 50 days as a placeholder for 2010 to the 557 legislative days the legislature has clocked in since 2001, means the legislature will have been in session approximately 607 days this decade - the most in state history by nearly 30 days.

Due in part to the calling of five special sessions in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007, the legislature has also drawn out its sessions at the Capitol at a record pace this decade more than any other.

In fact, the legislature has already broken the state record for the most calendar days in session in state history - at 1,167 this decade - with 100+ days likely to come in 2010. That eclipses the previous record of 1,148 set from 1991-2000.

Minnesota Legislature Days in Session by Decade

Decade
Legislatures
Calendar days
Legislative days
2001-2009*
82-86
1,167
557
1991-2000
77-81
1,148
559
1981-1990
72-76
1,059
488
1971-1980
67-71
1,147
581
1961-1970
62-66
745
545
1951-1960
57-61
612
446
1941-1950
52-56
543
391
1931-1940
47-51
693
501
1921-1930
42-46
539
388
1911-1920
37-41
567
N/A
1901-1910
32-36
558
N/A
1891-1900
27-31
530
N/A
1881-1890
22-26
386
N/A
1871-1880
13-21
540
N/A
1861-1870
3-12
621
N/A
1857-1860
1-2
351
N/A
* Does not include continuing of regular session in 2010. Note: In some years the House and Senate were not in session the same number of days. Data in the table reflects the largest number of days either chamber was in session in a given year. Aside from special sessions, the Minnesota Legislature did not meet in even-numbered years for nearly a 100-year stretch, from 1880 through 1972. Biennial sessions began in 1879.

The question Minnesota residents might be asking right now: Is it a net benefit or detriment to the Gopher State in having its lawmakers in session at this current record-setting pace?

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