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Minnesota Legislature

House unanimously passes omnibus judiciary civil policy bill

The omnibus judiciary civil policy bill would modernize, streamline and improve several civil law statutes and benefit thousands of Minnesotans.

Such was the message Wednesday from Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), the sponsor of HF3517/SF3357*, before the House voted unanimously for its passage.

The bill would make changes to guardianship and conservatorship laws, modify the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, amend the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act and modify provisions related to wage garnishment.

Lesch described the bill as non-controversial, consensus legislation with no fiscal impact to the state. It passed the Senate May 6 by a vote of 66-0 and now goes to Gov. Tim Walz. Sen. Warren LImmer (R-Maple Grove) is the Senate sponsor.

Changes in guardianship and conservatorship laws

Guardianship occurs when the court gives an individual or organization legal authority to make personal decisions for an individual whom the court deems unable to provide for their own basic needs.

One provision in the bill would require courts to consider what less restrictive means of assisting a protected person have been attempted before a guardianship or conservatorship is put in place.

“The bill modernizes our law and moves it in the direction of promoting less restrictive alternatives for individuals with disabilities,” Lesch said. “It helps ensure that all people retain their civil liberties and ownership over important life decisions.”

Other provisions in the bill would:

  • update the Bill of Rights for Protected Persons to include the right to communicate and see friends and family when it does not pose a threat to the protected person;
  • allow a professional guardian to delegate authority to another person for a short period of time when the professional guardian notifies the court;
  • require notice to family when a person subject to a guardianship experiences a significant medical change, is moved, or dies;
  • allow a person subject to a conservatorship to control their own wages, unless otherwise ordered by the court; and
  • allow a guardian or conservator to seek a restraining order on behalf of a protected person.

The bill would make technical changes to guardianship and conservatorship laws, most notably changing the term “ward” to “protected person” throughout the guardianship chapters.


Changes to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

Other provisions in the bill would change the standard of care from the “prudent person” standard to a “prudent investor rule” consistent with how trusts are managed by custodians who are managing assets under the Minnesota Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.

The bill would also change the termination age of all MUTMA accounts to 21; under current law, some accounts terminate at 18. And the bill would allow a custodian to transfer the property to a trust.

Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act

The omnibus bill would modify the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act, which governs the operation of condominium associations and other common interest communities.

The changes would specify that unit owners are deemed to have voted in the affirmative for approval of amendments to declarations, bylaws, and articles of incorporation if the association sends a notice to the unit owner and they do not object to the amendment.

The bill would also provide for a court process to allow an owners’ association to reduce the percentage needed for approval and have an amendment approved by the court. Currently, some associations require a 100% approval before changes can be made in bylaws, which can be very difficult to obtain. The bill would permit associations to reduce that requirement to 67% through a court filing.


Wage garnishment

Changes to the state wage garnishment statutes, which outline the legal processes to be followed when a creditor has obtained a judgment against a debtor, are included.

A provision would allow creditors to garnish earnings for 90 days instead of the current 70 days allowed in state law.

The exemption for wages – the amount a debtor can keep away from a creditor during a garnishment – would also be changed. Under current law, a debtor can exempt income under one of the following formulas, whichever one is higher:

  • 40 times the federal minimum wage; or
  • 25% of the debtor’s net income.

The omnibus bill adds an additional category, allowing a debtor to maintain up to 40 times the state minimum wage, as it was set from 2016 to 2018 at $9.50 an hour.


What’s in the bill?

The following are the four House bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus judiciary and civil law bill:

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