The Minnesota Legislature has 201 members â€” 67 senators and 134 representatives. You have one representative and one senator. To find out who represents you, visit the stateâ€™s District Finder Tool or call (651) 296-2146 or (800) 657-3550.
Senators are elected for a four-year term, and representatives are elected for a two-year term. However, in election years ending in 0, such as 2000 or 1990, senators serve for a two-year term to provide for the redistricting done in conjunction with the U.S. census. Most legislators have â€œreal jobsâ€ too; they typically work at the Capitol from the end of January until the end of May.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
The legislative branch of government is responsible for passing and revising laws. They do this by introducing bills.
A bill is an idea for a new law or an idea to change an old law. Anyone can suggest an idea for a bill, but only a legislator can move the bill through the legislative process. The legislator who sponsors and introduces the bill is called the chief author.
The chief House author introduces the bill in the House, and the chief Senate author introduces the bill in the Senate. The bill is then sent to appropriate committees in both the House and the Senate.
The bill is discussed in one or more committees and each committee votes to approve or disapprove. If approved, the bill goes to the floor of the House and the Senate where it is discussed and can be changed and then is voted on. If the two bills now donâ€™t exactly match, they are sent to a conference committee where a few members of the House and a few from the Senate try to work out the differences between the bills and reach a compromise.
The bill then returns to the full House and full Senate where it is voted on. If the bill passes both the House and the Senate it then goes to the Governor; if the Governor signs the bill, it becomes law; if the Governor vetoes the bill it goes back to the House and Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required to override the Governorâ€™s veto.
Your senators and representatives work for you. Advocating for what is important to you helps enable them to do the job of representing the wants and needs of their constituents.
A few reasons why you should be an advocate include:
- Youâ€™re the expert. Legislators donâ€™t automatically know and understand all the issues present in their districts upon election. You have the personal stories and experiences that tell the realities of issues present in their district.
- Legislators are people, too. Senators and representatives were once constituents of the very district they now represent. They have a vested interest in supporting, listening to, and working for the people of their very own communities.
- You canâ€™t say it too many times. The Legislature is a busy place, and even the best-intentioned legislators might lose sight of the plight of people experiencing homelessness. Donâ€™t be afraid of reminding them often.
What Can I Do?
There are many ways to advocate for the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness, as well as those who are at risk, including:
- Learn about homelessness. You can do this by reviewing information on the Coalitionâ€™s website, by volunteering at a local shelter, or by reading books on poverty and homelessness.
- Develop a relationship with your legislator. You can initiate this by writing a letter, making a phone call, or scheduling a visit. And then keep in touch. Invite your senator and representative to your school or faith community or workplace or program to discuss homelessness.
- Read and respond to articles in the newspaper. You can do this by writing a letter to the editor, writing an opinion piece, or meeting with the editorial board.