PoliGraph: Bakk claim gets history right

Before leaving the Capitol for the year, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL- Cook, bemoaned what he called the “biggest do-nothing legislative session in our state’s history.”

“We’re going to use 250 calendar days,” Bakk said. “That, members, is the second longest calendar days since statehood. We’re going to pass, assuming this bill gets signed and the Revisor’s bill gets signed, about 245 bills. Members, that’s the fewest number of bills that has been signed into law since 1869.”

Bakk’s claim is basically correct.

The Evidence

The Legislative Reference Library keeps track of each two-year session’s basics – how long they lasted, how many bills were introduced, and how many bills became law, among other statistics.

Excluding last year’s special session to approve budget bills, the current session actually lasted 248 calendar days, so Bakk is two days off.

Nevertheless, this part of Bakk’s claim is still on point: this session was the second longest in terms of calendar days since statehood. Legislators used 251 calendar days to get through the 2001-2002 legislative session, according to the library’s data.

If you include special session days, which Bakk didn’t take into account for his comparison, this session was the fourth longest – still one of the most protracted in state history.

Bakk is also correct that 245 bills became law this session. That’s the fewest since 1869, when the same number of new laws were put on the books.

The Verdict

Whether lawmakers got anything accomplished this session is a matter of opinion. But Bakk’s numbers are correct.

The PoliGraph rates this claim accurate.


Facts About the 87th Legislature, complied by Senate DFL research

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, Sessions of the Minnesota State Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, 1849-present, accessed May 16, 2012

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, Number of Bills Introduced and Laws Passed in the Minnesota Legislature, 1849-present, May 16, 2012

Minnesota Session Laws – 2012, Regular Session, accessed May 16, 2012

  • Joe

    What is Bakk’s point? Why would I care if they passed a low number of bills? Frankly I’m glad and a bit scared that Bakk and his cronies will take over and decide to pass a lot of legislation to control more of our lives.

  • Todd

    The reason it matters is that it takes legislation, passed into law, to change things. The GOP legislature failed at that, too.

    They did max out on per diem, though. So not a total loss from their point of view.

  • John Kysylyczyn

    I heard Bakk’s statement live on TV. The first thing I thought of is he is comparing apples to oranges.

    Back in history, I highly doubt you had the extensive use of omnibus bills like you have today.

    Today you take what would have been 25 separate tax proposals in the past, and you combine them into one large tax bill.

    Under Bakk’s statement, that means that a past legislature gets credit for 25 separate laws where this year, the legislature only gets credit for one.

    I’m embarrassed for the media in that some got sucked into this statement without fully vetting it. The media should be smarter than this. If they want to start running with this quote, they need to take it to a deeper level.

    Another thing to add is that it was the DFL that pushed the change to change the constitution to allow sessions to occur every year. Under conservative caucus leadership, sessions were only every other year. So there is sort of a scenario where the pot is calling the kettle black. That is another thing the media seems to have missed.