Minnesota Legislature 101
The 2023 legislative session has arrived, and MREA’s strongest asset is our member advocates like you. Every day during the session, MREA’s legislative team is inside the walls of the Minnesota State Capitol, advocating for Greater Minnesota education.
2023 is a budget-setting session, whereby the legislature and Governor must agree to a new two-year operating budget for state government services, including public education funding. The $17.6 billion surplus gives us hope for a significant infusion of much needed funding into our local schools.
Below you’ll find some introductory information on advocating at the Minnesota Capitol. MREA members should watch their email for information about joining MREA’s Advocacy Briefings during this legislative session.
Who represents me?
First things first, you need to know who represents you. Click the link below to visit the Legislative Coordinating Commission webpage, and enter your address in the search bar. This will show you a complete list of both your state and federal lawmakers.
How can I make an impact?
Now that you know who your legislators are, what next? Reach out! After searching your lawmakers using the link above, there are direct links to their contact information provided. An email is an easy way to introduce yourself as a constituent, and mention some of the issues you care most about. The MREA platform is a resource you can share with your legislators and will can help you focus your messaging to them.
If you’re up to it, you can even ask for a meeting, either virtual or in person, to talk in more detail. If there is a specific bill you are in favor of or opposed to, be sure to tell them. Legislators in leadership positions and members of each Education Committee (more on that below) are also valuable to reach out to, whether they represent you or not. MREA primarily works with the House Education Finance & Policy Committees and the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committees.
What do these words mean?
- Caucus – this word refers to each group of either Democrats or Republicans in the Senate or House. For example, in 2023 the majority caucus in the House is the Democratic Caucus and the minority caucus is the Republican Caucus. The word caucus can also be a verb referring to the meeting of these groups, “the Republicans caucused last night to discuss tomorrow’s floor debate.”
- Leadership – each body has one person elected from their ranks to preside over floor sessions and moderate the discussions. In the Senate, this position is the President of the Senate. In the House, this position is the Speaker of the House. Each of the four caucuses also elects a leader and assistant leader(s).
- Committees – both the House and the Senate create committees based on subject area, and assign legislators to those committees based on their expertise or interest. Once bills are drafted they are sent to any committee(s) that relate to the bill’s subject matter. Committees have their own leadership: a Committee Chair and Vice Chair from the majority party, and a Minority Lead. Click for the House Committee List and the Senate Committee List.
- Committee Hearings and Testimony – committees generally meet once or twice a week, these meetings are called hearings. The Committee Chair will set the agenda for each hearing, the agenda may include bills to be heard by the committee. At this point individual from the public can come forward and speak on behalf of or against the bill. People who sign up to “testify” are referred to as “testifiers” by the committee chair when called forth to speak. MREA staff often testify and also seek testimony from our members from time to time.
Where can I find more resources?
- Legislative Resources on the MREA website – A comprehensive collection of issue briefs and reports, interactive maps, and more.
- Minnesota Legislature Homepage – Find everything you need to know about the Minnesota Legislature.
- Combined Calendar for the Minnesota Legislature – Full calendar for both the House and Senate. Here you’ll find additional info on what’s happening at the capitol, including links to streaming videos if available.
- Bill Search and Tracking – Search for bills of interest by keyword, author, and other means. If you scroll down, this webpage has many other helpful links and guides related to bills.
How can I get engaged?
- Join MREA’s Advocacy Briefings – During the Legislative Session, MREA hosts 45-minute Advocacy Briefings almost weekly on Tuesdays at 7 am. Sam Walseth, MREA’s Advocacy Director, leads the meeting with updates from the week, key discussion points, and answers questions from members. Watch your email for the Advocacy Briefing invite.
- Take action – Once the session is underway, MREA sends out Action Alerts to members regarding current topic or high-priority issues that may be in discussion at the Capitol. When MREA sends those Action Alerts, we need members to take action. This may be reaching out to your legislator or potentially offering to testify.
- Read your Insider Brief – Legislative session updates are posted weekly in your Monday morning Insider Brief. This is one of the best ways to get the cliff notes from the week at the Capitol.
- Involve your School Board, Teachers, and other Leaders – Encourage your school board, teachers, and other school leaders to be informed and take action at the legislative level. They can subscribe to MREA communications here.