To the editor:
A host of new laws take effect Aug. 1, with changes regarding everything from fishing to speed limits, cell phones, subcontractor protection and more. The entire list of new laws is at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/0809nlrelease.pdf, but below is a quick rundown of some of the biggest changes.
PASSING SPEED LIMIT INCREASED FOR SOME
Drivers are allowed to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph when passing another vehicle going the same direction on a two-lane highway with a speed limit of at least 55 mph. This provision is part of a new law making failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense.
NO CHARGES ON LOST CELL PHONE USAGE IF MEET CONDITIONS:
A customer will not be liable for charges resulting from unauthorized use of their cell phone, if the wireless provider has been notified that the phone is lost or stolen. The customer will have to agree, however, to suspend use of the wireless device.
GAME, FISH AND FOREST REGULATIONS UPDATED
All-terrain vehicle drivers are subject to new penalties designed to protect wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas. Violations are a gross misdemeanor and may result in license suspension and/or the seizure of the vehicle upon a second offense.
Off-highway motorcycle riders law changes: Old law required under age 16 riders being required to ride "alongside" another rider age 18 or older, which prevented them from legally participating in track-style events. The new law allows them to now ride while “under adult supervision.”
Several changes are made regarding state parks. Visitors will be able to request multiple vehicle permits beyond the two previously allowed; vehicles carrying students on school-sanctioned trips will not be charged state park entry fees; and a permit will no longer be required to enter John A. Latsch State Park or Greenleaf Lake State Recreation Area.
The law updates a number of fishing policies, including:
? the minimum age of a resident is lowered from 18 to 16 who may fish free during “Take a Kid Fishing Weekend” when accompanied by a child under age 16;
? anyone may fish from shore in water that is wholly contained within a state park, except in waters that require a trout stamp;
? residents discharged from active federal military service during the preceding two years may obtain a free license to hunt deer of either sex;
? spearing of fish is added to the list of available lifetime licenses, with exceptions; and
? a nonresident license may be issued to spear fish from a dark house.
CONTRACTOR OR EMPLOYEE?
A new law clarifies the question of how workers in the trucking and courier industry can be classified as independent contractors rather than employees. The change in the law lays out for this group of workers the usual factors all needing to be present for a worker to be considered an independent contractor, including when the individual:
? owns the equipment or holds it under a bona fide lease arrangement;
? is responsible for the equipment’s maintenance and operating costs;
? is paid based on work performed, not time expended;
? substantially controls the means and manner of the service performance; and
? enters into a written contract specifying that the relationship is one of an independent contractor and not that of an employee.
PAYING SUBCONTRACTORS PROMPTLY
Subcontractors and suppliers working on residential jobs now have the same assurance as those working for commercial contractors that they will be paid in a timely manner with a new law which strikes language excluding residential subcontractors and suppliers from an existing law which requires prompt payment. Prime contractors or subcontractors who hire other subcontractors or suppliers must pay those they hire within 10 days from the date payment is requested. The law also stipulates interest to be paid on late payments.
FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL DAY ESTABLISHED
The first Sunday in October is designated Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day. On that day, each U.S. and Minnesota flag on the Capitol grounds will be flown at half-staff. According to the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial Association, there have been 197 line-of-duty firefighter deaths in Minnesota, with the first being recorded in 1881 in Minneapolis, and the most recent in 2008 in Pine City.
VETERINARIAN STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
Veterinary students can look forward to a new large animal veterinary loan forgiveness program that will focus on helping veterinarians who operate full-time practices in “underserved” rural areas and work mostly with food animals. The law includes $225,000 for the program.