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Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis

Legislative Role

The Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Analysis Office (SCRFA) is a nonpartisan organization that provides legal, research and fiscal analysis services to the Senate. The staff includes attorneys, legislative analysts, fiscal analysts, and support personnel. Each professional staff member is assigned to one or more Senate committees or budget divisions. Staff services are available to all members of the Senate for matters of public business. The office supports the Senate in four general ways:

  1. The staff assigned to each committee or budget division work as a team to support the work of the committee or division. They attend committee meetings, present information, answer Senators' questions, draft legislation, and conduct research requested by members.
  2. Members of the staff provide services to individual Senators on request. All staff maintain a confidential relationship with Senators; a project requested by one Senator is discussed with others only if the requesting Senator approves.
  3. During the interim, staff work with Senators to anticipate, define, and study emerging issues. Staff members may focus on policy questions broader than those relating to specific bills and conduct original research in areas of importance to the Senate.
  4. Staff members serve as general experts for the Senate in assigned subject areas.

Functions and Services

Legal, research and fiscal analysis services are provided to Senators and Senate committees and budget divisions on request, in anticipation of requests, and as a continuing role of the office.

Some more specific examples include:

  • Policy research - Staff collect, analyze, and disseminate information on legislative issues and concerns. An analysis may include policy alternatives and descriptions of approaches taken by other states.
  • Legal research - Staff may explain the law on a particular topic, and provide analysis, including advice on constitutional issues.
  • Budget and statistical analysis - Staff use computer hardware, simulation programs and other software to provide information, conduct research, and prepare Budget Tracking Spreadsheets and General Budget Information and Issue Briefs.
  • Bill drafting and bill summary preparation - Staff draft bills and amendments to accomplish particular purposes. Staff also summarize bills being heard in committee.
  • Review of bills - Staff review all bills heard by committees and work with authors to be sure that bills are drafted correctly and carry out the author's intent.
  • Committee meetings - Staff attend all committee and division meetings, including conference committees, and provide legal and research support to members and the committee. On request, staff draft amendments to bills being heard in committee. (Committee and floor sessions run more efficiently when amendments are prepared in advance of the meeting.)
  • Floor sessions - The office has an assigned desk in the Senate Chamber. One or more staff will be there when the Senate is in session to answer legal, policy and fiscal questions and to draft amendments.
  • Legislative oversight - Staff members monitor implementation of laws to help the Senate fulfill its executive branch oversight responsibility.
  • Budget oversight
    • Review the use of appropriations and the implementation of fiscal language to determine if legislative intent is being met.
    • Gather and coordinate information on issues of fiscal policy and practice.
    • Maintain historical perspective on agency budgets and activities.
    • Maintain effective lines of communication with top-level administrators involved in the development of operating and capital plans for state agencies, political subdivisions, or other organizations seeking or receiving state money.
    • Monitor and analyze developments in federal, state, and local governments for their effects on Minnesota state programs.
  • Special projects - Staff may design, organize, or conduct seminars, conferences, or workshops for the Senate or Senate committees.

Tom Bottern, Director

Front Desk: (651) 296-4791

Suite 3300
Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue W.
Saint Paul, MN 55155