I hope you are enjoying our beautiful summer. Here is a roundup of news from the Capitol.
DISCUSSING MILLE LACS LAKE
A working group has met three times to discuss the Mille Lacs Lake fishery after the walleye season was brought to an early close this month. That action was taken after officials indicated this year's target quota already had been reached. There are numerous layers to this complex issue, from management of the Mille Lacs walleye population to the negative impacts of reduced economic activity around the lake. The working group has requested a formal proposal from Gov. Mark Dayton but, to date, neither he nor his agency heads have provided one.
COLUMN RE: WATER QUALITY IN LAKES
On another lake-related subject, a guest column of mine recently appeared in the Quad Community Press. It was inspired by a letter from a local student which led me to do some research into the quality of our area lakes. State and local officials told of the nature of the testing, the possible contaminants they test for, and the quality of the water bodies in our county. Click here
for the full column.
SEX OFFENDER PROGRAM MEETING
A group of legislators, public officials and Governor Dayton met in front of Judge Donovan Frank last week to discuss the status of Minnesota's Sex Offender Program. Frank issued a ruling in mid-June stating the MSOP is unconstitutional and has ruled that changes must be made to the program in a timely manner. The meeting was a result of his order to hear proposed remedies and changes to the program, but consensus on a course of action was not reached and appeals are likely to be filed over Frank's ruling.
NEW LAWS IN PLACE
A number of new laws became effective this month. One of the most notable changes is a $1-per-hour increase in the state's minimum wage, putting Minnesota at $9 per hour. This is Phase 2 of a three-step increase enacted in 2014. The state's minimum wage increased from $6.15 for large employers to $8 per hour last year. It will go up 50 cents more in August of 2016, to $9.50, before being indexed to inflation starting in 2018.
Another new law stiffens penalties for texting while driving. The $50 fee for a citation rises to $225 for second and subsequent texting while driving convictions. This is part of a Minnesota's stepped-up campaign to cut down on distracted driving.
Data collected by automatic license plate readers used by law enforcement also is subject to new regulations and will be destroyed 60 days after collection (unless it is related to an active criminal investigation).This issue was the source of significant debate at the Capitol. It was important to reach a compromise because all data collected would have gone public this month, and anyone accessing the data could have learned about the locations and destinations of drivers whose license plate may have been recorded by a license plate reader.
More information is available regarding these and other new laws by clicking here
Thank you for your continued correspondence and reflections on the actions of the 2015 Legislature.
Rep. Linda Runbeck