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Hard at Work? Minnesota Legislature Sets Record for Decade-Long Days in Session

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Last week, on the 82nd Legislative Day of the 86th Legislature, the Minnesota Legislature set a new record for the most days in session in a decade.

A Smart Politics analysis of historical data compiled from the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library finds that the Legislature has been in session for more days during the last 10 years (2001-2010, or 82nd - 86th Legislatures) than during any stretch in Gopher State History.

Through Monday, March 29th, 2010, the state legislature had been in session for 582 legislative days over the past 10 years, eclipsing the previous mark of 581 days set from 1971 through 1980 (67th-71st Legislatures).

While the number of legislative days for regular sessions is capped at 120 per biennium by the state Constitution, past legislatures have frequently not come close to reaching that limit.

For example, excluding special sessions, the 73rd Legislature (1983-1984) was in session for just 84 days, the 72nd (1981-1982) and 74th (1985-1986) Legislatures were in session for 91 days, and the 75th Legislature (1987-1988) was in session for 93 days.

Recent legislatures, however, have flirted with the upper limit of the number of legislative days in session: 116 days for the 82nd Legislature (2001-2002), 111 days for the 83rd (2003-2004), 112 for the 84th (2005-2006), and 119 for the 85th (2007-2008).

Moreover, the last decade has also been witness to the calling of five special sessions - in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007 - which has tallied an additional 42 days 'at the office' for the state's 201 legislators.

Minnesota Legislature Days in Session (Regular) by Biennium, 1973-2010

Years
Legislature
Days
2009-2010*
86
82+
2007-2008
85
119
2005-2006
84
112
2003-2004
83
111
2001-2002
82
116
1999-2000
81
118
1997-1998
80
109
1995-1996
79
112
1993-1994
78
106
1991-1992
77
100
1989-1990
76
96
1987-1988
75
93
1985-1986
74
91
1983-1984
73
84
1981-1982
72
91
1979-1980
71
99
1977-1978
70
99
1975-1976
69
108
1973-1974
68
116
* Through March 29, 2010. Minnesota Legislative Reference Library data compiled by Smart Politics.

That means Minnesotans are perhaps getting more bang for their buck when it comes to putting their legislators to work - as salaries are set at $31,140.90 per year, unlike some states which pay legislators for each calendar day (e.g. Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Utah), legislative day (e.g. Montana, Nevada, Wyoming), or week (e.g. Vermont) they are in session.

(Minnesota legislators also receive session per diem rates of $96 per day for Senators and $77 per legislative day for Representatives).

Minnesota legislators have also spread out their days in session across a record 1,270 calendar days since 2001 through last Monday - which is more than 120 days longer (and counting) than the previous record of 1,148 days set during the 77th through 81st Legislatures from 1991-2000.

Note: Legislative committees may meet (and have met) without tallying a legislative day against the constitutional limit, as long as neither chamber meets on the floor on that day.

Minnesota Legislature Days in Session (Total) by Decade

Decade
Legislatures
Calendar days
Legislative days
2001-2010*
82-86
1,270*
582*
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
* Through March 29, 2010. Minnesota Legislative Reference Library data compiled by Smart Politics. 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.

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