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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Lisa Demuth (R)

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Legislative report

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

It was good to see so many people out at Richmond’s River Lake Days last weekend and now we look forward to another local highlight of summer with Cold Spring’s Hometown Pride Days on tap this weekend. Hope to see you there!

Now, on to a couple of legislative items:

Prepare for hands-free law to take effect

Drivers are urged to prepare for an Aug. 1 change in law prohibiting the use of hand-held electronic devices such as cell phones when behind the wheel.

The new law requires drivers to use voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone in order to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and use navigation systems. This will mark a significant change in the way many individuals use a cellphone while driving.

This new law is going to require us to make some adjustments and I hope people will embrace the transition so it is as smooth as possible. We all should take the time to make sure we have a system in place that not only complies with the new law, but ultimately achieves the goals of keeping our eyes up and our roads safer. Let’s all do our part to help make this happen.

While individuals will no longer be able to physically hold a cell phone while operating a vehicle, drivers also are prohibited from video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

Exceptions are allowed for individuals to obtain emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

GPS systems may still be used, but destination programming must be performed ahead of time, before a driver enters the roadway.

You can visit the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website for more information on this new law or, as always, feel free to reach out to my office.

Scholarships available for high-demand careers

College-bound students across Minnesota are encouraged to apply for workforce development scholarships worth $2,500 or more for high-demand occupations in the state.

The scholarships are for students pursuing careers within advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology, early childhood education and transportation at any of the 30 colleges in the Minnesota State system.

This is a great opportunity for students to take advantage of a successful scholarship pilot program with funding that has been increased for the next two years. These scholarships will enhance access and opportunities for students, while addressing the workforce shortage – especially in Greater Minnesota. Good jobs that pay well are available and I hope these scholarships pave the way to helping students find rewarding careers.

Minnesota State indicates nearly 400 Workforce Development Scholarships of $2,500 were awarded during the 2018-2019 academic year, covering approximately half the cost of tuition and fees for the required credits. Minnesota State also reports many colleges raised additional funds from private sources to supplement the dollars provided by the Legislature for this program.

I attended the recent 2019 Workforce Development Scholarship Tour at SCTCC and it was exciting to hear about the successes this project. There has been renewed focus on bridging the gap between student training and workforce demands to help people find the right career track and this is just one way we are achieving positive results. It’s very encouraging to see this develop and it bodes well for parts of the state such as ours where a skills gap has been evident.

These scholarships were made possible by a $7 million appropriation from the Legislature after a successful $1 million pilot program in the 2018-19 academic year. With the additional funding, the number of available scholarships will increase to an estimated 668 in 2020.

Students who were awarded a scholarship for the fall 2018 semester are eligible to apply again if they have completed two academic terms with a minimum of nine credits each and have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Financial aid office at Minnesota State colleges can provide more details regarding these or other scholarship and financial aid opportunities. Additional information is available at this link.

Take care and, as always, stay in touch.



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