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Minnesota Fantasy Legislature FAQ

Minnesota Public Radio
January 3, 2007

Q: What is Fantasy Legislature?
A: Fantasy Legislature is based on the same principles that gave rise to fantasy baseball and football. The manager (that's you) drafts a team of six legislators. That's where fantasy ends and reality begins. Points are awarded to each legislator in several categories based on actual happenings at the Minnesota Legislature. At the end of the season (session), the team with the most points wins. You can find complete scoring rules here.

Q: Can I still get a team this session?
A: No. We limited this year's participation to two leagues to see if this idea will work. If it does, we'll add more leagues next year. However, that doesn't mean you can't follow along. During the session,you'll find legislative power rankings, as well as updates on bills and actions that usually escape notice from regular Capitol coverage. If it doesn't work, well, we'll just file it in the big folder marked "Ishtar."

Q: How often will standings be updated?
A: Ideally, I'd like to update them once per day. Realistically, it may be a little less often that that? At the moment, the process is a guy with a spreadsheet and a stack of official House and Senate Web sites to check.

Q: How do you figure out the points?
We'll use the daily schedules as released by the House and Senate each evening (for the next day) as the official "scheduling" of a hearing to determine the points for bills heard. While we're planning on updating the "filed bills" points total daily, the official publication of legislative activity will be each week's copy of Session Weekly and Senate Briefly. In addition the House and Senate daily journals will be used.

Q: What's the prize for winning?
A: At the moment, there isn't a prize other than the worldwide respect of political wonks. But we think it would be cool to have an award ceremony involving the winning team's "players" and the governor. Or maybe a bridge will be named in honor of the winning team. Stay tuned.

Q: Can I change my team once it's drafted?
A: Yes. Because we limited the size of each league, we created a large pool of "free agents." These non-drafted legislators are available to teams. During the week, teams can submit waiver claims by indicating what legislator they wish to add and what legislator they wish to drop from their team to make room. A free agent who is claimed by more than one team will be awarded to the team that is lower in the standings as of the next Saturday. Teams are "frozen" at midnight Saturday until midnight on Friday. Keep in mind, you must always have two legislators from each party on your squad.

Q: What happens to the points when you pick up a free agent?

A: Nothing. You don't get the points accumulated by a free agent prior to your claiming him (via the waiver process). You get, however, the points after he/she joins your team. Similarly, you keep all the points any legislator accumulates while on your team, even if you cut him/her later.

Q: My legislator doesn't have any points. He/she must not be any good, right?
A: Filing, steering, and passing legislation is just one of many, many responsibilities of a lawmaker. And let's use the fantasy baseball analogy again. Points are usually in the categories of pitching and hitting. But put a pitcher out there without 8 guys playing defense, and that team isn't going to be very good, and the team will likely lose. Similarly, a legislator who files and gets passed many bills, but provides no help to constituents, or assistance in passing bills which do not bear his/her name, may be less valuable to the democratic process.

So, no, the points tabulated are not an indication of the actual value of a legislator, they're only indicative of performance in the areas the game measures.

There's more to baseball than just hitting and pitching. And there's more to being a legislator in Minnesota than getting your own bills passed. although it's part of the total package.

Q: Doesn't this make a mockery of the legislative process?
A: On the contrary, it illuminates the legislative process and the tremendous workload that lawmakers have. Look at it this way: during the course of a legislative session, relatively few lawmakers get any coverage. And comparatively few bills warrant mainstream coverage. With Fantasy Legislature, you'll learn more about both. It might even help people understand the seemingly Byzantine process of legislating. We think that's a good thing. And if you have some fun in the process, all the better!

Questions? Drop a note to Bob Collins. We'll add the question and answer here.

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