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Minnesota lawmakers have 120 days over two years to do their work each biennium. For DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, that's no longer enough.
She said the Minnesota Legislature, which has a habit of going into overtime to finish its job, should switch to full time. Minnesota is among the majority of states that have a part-time legislature.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka does not want to get rid of the existing approach, where farmers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and others juggle those jobs with coming to the Capitol to pass laws.
"I think the citizen legislator concept, where you have people from all walks of life come in and give part of their time to the state of Minnesota as a Legislature, is the way it should be," Gazelka said.
Hortman, meanwhile, said they aren't able to spend enough time on priorities, such as closing education opportunity gaps, because they have such a tight deadline to set the state's budget.
"We get the [state economic and budget] forecast on March 1, and then we're supposed to turn around a $50 billion budget by May 17," Hortman said. "There's a lot more policy work that we really give short shrift to because we're so focused on the budget."
Ten states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, have full-time legislatures. Lawmakers' average annual compensation is $82,358 in those states, with an average of 1,250 employees working for the legislature. In states with a part-time legislature, lawmakers' pay averages $41,110 and the staff total is about 469, according to National Conference of State Legislatures data from 2014 and 2015.
The switch to a full-time lawmaking body, which would require a state constitutional amendment by voters, is not the only reform Hortman supports. If they move to full-time, she said that change should be paired with a reduction in the number of legislators, which does not require a constitutional change.
Minnesota has 134 House members and 67 senators, making it one of the larger legislatures in the country, though nowhere near New Hampshire's whopping 424 lawmakers.
"There's no magic to the 134. It has been variable sizes throughout Minnesota's history. So I would rather go to something like 90 [representatives] and 45 [senators]," Hortman said, noting that would result in a less crowded House floor and fewer members "who feel like they need to say the same thing over and over."
Hortman said they would need to establish the idea well ahead of the 2030 census and redistricting. "That would be a natural time to reduce the size," she said.
Gazelka said he is open to the idea of shrinking the size of the Legislature, but said there's not a lot of interest in that right now. However, there is another government reform he would like to see: changes to the governor's emergency powers.
More than 300 bills have been proposed in state capitals across the country this year to address emergency powers, he said, because legislators are concerned the executive branch is doing too much on its own authority.