August 1 is the effective date of some new laws in Minnesota, covering a wide range of topics. Here is an overview of some headline items:
Minimum wage increase
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 the second of a three-step increase Minnesota majority enacted in 2014 legislative session. The state's minimum wage increased from $6.15 for large employers to $8 per hour last year. The minimum wage will go up by another 50 cents in August of 2016, to $9.50, before being indexed to inflation starting in 2018.
This puts Minnesota among the highest bottom wages in the nation. The five states with minimum wages higher than Minnesota's are coastal. In our region, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin all are $7.25, while South Dakota is $8.50.
Texting while driving
Some other changes pertain to drivers, including an increase to penalties for repeat texting-while-driving offenders. 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.
Automatic license plate readers
A new law related to drivers pertains to stipulating that data collected by automatic license plate readers used by law enforcement is destroyed after 60 days of collection (unless it is related to an active criminal investigation).
This issue was the subject of lengthy debate at the Capitol this year. Data-privacy advocates wanted zero retention or a smaller 30-day window. Other people said retention of 90 days or more is more appropriate. In the end, compromise was reached – which was important, since all data would have gone public by Aug. 1, if it were not classified through this legislation. Data becoming public data was of great concern by privacy advocates since the public data would make it possible for anyone accessing the data to learn about the locations and destinations of drivers whose license plate may have been recorded by an license plate reader. A number of other provisions are included regarding APLR use in order to protect citizens.
The so-called "Right to Try" bill also becomes effective, allowing terminal patients who have exhausted all conventional forms of recovery to have their physician write a prescription for an experimental treatment as a last resort. Under the Right to Try Act, an experimental drug or device will need to have passed the first phase of a clinical trial, but have yet to be approved for general use by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers of qualifying experimental drugs or devices will be able to provide the product free of charge and insurance companies will not be required to cover the cost.
Efforts continue in order to provide both parents with more equal standing in custody cases. It would be preferable for families to remain united so children have both parents available as positive role models. When a less-desirable scenario unfolds, it is important to do what is best for the child. A bipartisan group spent the last two years working toward consensus on some key issues and a number of reforms are taking place, including new law which:
clarifies how either parent may take the child income tax dependency exemption;
integrates parenting rights that previously took the form of a separate appendix into the body of a court order;
allows judges to set interest rates for certain awards in family law actions;
revises the child’s best interest standards for custody decisions;
clarifies that 25 percent is a presumed minimum amount of parenting time in a child support determination; and
makes a variety of changes to laws concerning custody and visitation as they apply to parents who are deployed with the armed services.
Public safety changes
There is a wide variety of change in public safety, including the creation of a Blue Alert system to disseminate urgent information to the public to help locate an individual suspected of killing or injuring a law enforcement officer.
Also, Minnesota is taking a more cautious approach to implementing the Silver Alert system by assembling a working group to study whether the state should create a similar system to aid in the recovery of missing persons who are senior citizens with dementia, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease or other mental disabilities. The group must submit a report to the Legislature summarizing their recommendations. It will sunset the following day or Feb. 15, 2016, whichever is earlier.
Another new public safety-related law is one I authored. "Colton's Law" requires the Department of Corrections, when imposing electronic monitoring as a condition of the offender's release, to activate the offender's electronic monitoring system before the offender is released.
More information is available regarding these and other new laws at: http://www.house.mn/hinfo/leginfo/0815nlrelease.pdf.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus
Mining & Outdoor Recreation