According to Minnesota Statute 3.011, the legislature shall meet at the seat of government on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in January of each odd-numbered year. It shall also meet when called by the governor to meet in special session.
In the even numbered years, it convenes on a date set by joint agreement of both bodies.
During this time, the House or the Senate may not adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other body.
The state constitution limits the Legislature to meeting 120 legislative days during each biennium. In addition, the Legislature may not meet in regular session after the first Monday following the third Saturday in May of any year. For constitutional provisions concerning the length of session and special sessions, see Minnesota Constitution, Article IV - Legislative Department).
Minnesota law currently defines a legislative day as one on which either the House or Senate is in session. Committee activity alone does not constitute a legislative day. A legislative day begins at 7 a.m. and continues until 7 a.m. of the following calendar day.
The Legislature changed the definition of a legislative day in 2023 (see Minnesota Statutes 3.012). The change goes into effect January 13, 2025.
For sessions convening on or after January 13, 2025, "a legislative day is a day when either house of the legislature gives any bill a third reading, adopts a rule of procedure or organization, elects a university regent, confirms a gubernatorial appointment, or votes to override a gubernatorial veto."
A legislative day will still begin at 7 a.m. and continue until 7 a.m. of the following calendar day.
There are four possible things people are referring to when they refer to the legislative session.
First is the biennial session that begins on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of January in an odd-numbered year and ends no later than the first Monday after the third Saturday in May of the even-numbered year. The 2023-2024 session is a biennial session.
The next definition of a session is the yearly session, which begins on the day the Legislature assembles and ends on the day it adjourns for the year.
Daily sessions, which adjourn each day, are any time the House or Senate meet on the floor of their respective chambers. At such times, both bodies are referred to as "in session."
Finally, a special session is one called by the governor at a time other than a regularly scheduled session. The legislature, however, determines the length and purpose of any such session.
For further information, see the House Research publications Regular Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature and Special Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature.
Minnesota's current biennial legislative structure is known as a flexible biennial session. The House Research publication Regular Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature explains the structure of Minnesota Legislative Sessions, and flexible biennial sessions, in greater detail: "Each legislature may schedule its regular session meetings as it pleases, as long as it does not exceed 120 legislative days or meet outside of the January-to-May period. The session is biennial because each legislature is allowed, though not required, to meet in both years of the biennium: when it closes the regular session in the first year, the legislature can choose to adjourn either sine die or to a date it specifies in the following year."
Minnesota hasn't always had a flexible session. The flexible biennial session has been an option for the Legislature since 1973, the result of a 1972 constitutional amendment. That amendment did not require annual sessions of the Legislature. Rather, it just allowed for them to happen. The Minnesota Legislature has met in session every year since 1973, taking advantage of the flexible session option.
The first year of the biennium begins in January of the odd-numbered year and typically lasts until the constitutional adjournment deadline in May. The second year of the biennium has a flexible start date and is usually shorter than the first year. Typically, the Legislature convenes in February of the even-numbered year and is in session through the constitutional adjournment deadline in May.
For historical information on Minnesota legislative sessions, see Sessions of the Minnesota State Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature and Special Sessions of the Minnesota Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature.
You may also be interested in other FAQs about sessions.
It was the intention of lawmakers that the first year of the biennium be used for the "major financial planning of the State," according to the Joint Committee on Flexible Sessions report compiled in 1972. The committee viewed the second year of the biennium as "one of budget review; action on the results of interim studies; consideration of emergency measures and the result of the evaluation of the needs of the State; and action on business left over from the first session, as well as on late bills resulting from implementation of deadlines."
You may also be interested in the FAQ: What is a flexible session?
Sine die is Latin for "without a day." Adjournment without setting a definite date for meeting again is called adjournment sine die. It signifies the end of a biennial legislative session or a special session.
There is no yearly deadline for the introduction of bills. However, each year the Legislature establishes deadlines for committee action on bills by concurrent resolution. The deadlines do not apply to the House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.
Committee deadlines are announced during the first half of a session in order to winnow the list of topics to be dealt with that year.
The Minnesota Constitution sets a deadline for the end of each year's session: the first Monday after the third Saturday in May.