According to Minnesota Statute 3.011, the legislature shall meet at the seat of government on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each odd-numbered year. When the first Monday in January falls on January 1, it shall meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday. 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 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.
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 2015-2016 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.
The Minnesota Legislature meets each year, functioning on a two-year cycle called a biennium. The first year of the biennium is called the "long year," and lasts from January to mid-May. The second year is called the "short year," and typically runs from February through the end of April.
Since 1973, the Minnesota Legislature has met in session every year, the result of a 1972 constitutional amendment, which allowed for "flexible sessions." The 1972 amendment did not require annual sessions of the Legislature. Rather, it just allowed for them to happen.
When the Minnesota Constitution was written in 1857, it placed no limit on the number of days the Legislature could meet in session and did not prohibit the Legislature from meeting each year. Three years later, sessions were limited to 60 days in length. Until 1877, the Legislature met each year. It was in 1877 that the Minnesota Constitution was amended to provide for biennial sessions with a limit of 60 days. In 1888, the number of days was increased to 90, and in 1962, increased again to the current 120 days.
From 1877 until 1973, when lawmakers redefined the term, legislative days were measured consecutively, meaning that the clock began ticking the moment the Legislature convened, excluding Sundays. Exactly 120 calendar days (plus Sundays) after convening, the Legislature had to adjourn. Following the passage of the 1972 amendment, lawmakers in 1973 redefined a legislative day as only those days when either the House or Senate met in full session. Days on which only committees meet are not considered official legislative days. This definition of "day" left the 120-day constitutional maximum untouched, but allowed lawmakers to spread the days over a two-year period. This 'flexible' system is unique in the United States.
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.
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."
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.