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Minnesota Legislature

A little bit of everything

Published (6/1/2010)
By Nick Busse
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The omnibus employment and economic development policy law covers a lot of ground — everything from changes to unemployment insurance benefits to new safety rules at inflatable play parks for children.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Obermueller (DFL-Eagan) and Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), the law addresses a range of policies under the jurisdiction of primarily three agencies: the Department of Commerce, the Department of Employment and Economic Development, and the Department of Labor and Industry. Unless otherwise noted, it takes effect Aug. 1, 2010.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty line-item vetoed a pair of provisions dealing with projects in the Iron Range: a $2 million grant for renewable energy projects and an appropriation for operating room equipment and renovations at the Virginia Regional Medical Center. In his veto message, Pawlenty stated that such provisions need to be vetted and approved by Iron Range Resources.

HF2781/ SF2510*/CH347

Inflatable play park safety

Indoor amusement parks with inflatable rides can be fun places to take children, but critics say they’re dangerous when not properly supervised. The law will boost safety requirements for the facilities. Supporters cite a rash of serious injuries sustained by children who were not being supervised while using the rides.

The law requires that a “trained supervisor” be in close proximity and actively supervising each inflatable ride when in use. Indoor play parks will have to register and be subject to inspection by the Department of Labor and Industry. The provisions do not apply to companies that rent out inflatable rides for use at parties, carnivals or events.

Business loans for veterans

Veterans who have served actively in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, will be eligible to apply for an interest-free loan to start a business, under the law. Veterans may apply to DEED for a loan of up to $20,000. Funding for the loans will come from an existing but underutilized loan program for businesses that suffer economic injury as a result of having an essential employee called to active military service.

Science authority created

To help boost high-tech business in the state, the law establishes a Minnesota Science and Technology Authority. The job of the state-level group will be to coordinate public and private efforts to fund high-tech research and development initiatives, and develop a “comprehensive science and technology economic development plan” for the state.

The authority will consist of the commissioners of five state agencies, and will be aided by an advisory commission comprised of individuals representing the higher education, business, labor and investment communities. To help kick-start the authority, the law appropriates $107,000 from money previously appropriated to DEED for other purposes.

Unemployment changes

The law includes a special extension of unemployment insurance benefits for up to 13 weeks, effective from June 30, 2010, to March 26, 2011. It replaces a special emergency unemployment compensation program from 2009.

Also included are provisions that will guarantee that people who return to work after being on unemployment, only to get laid off a second time, receive a similar level of benefits to what they had before. The law will also extend eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits to some temporary staffing agency workers who choose not to keep taking temp jobs.

Contractor licensing fees

Many of the licensing fees that plumbers, electricians and dozens of other types of contractors have to pay the state will change, under the new law. In an effort to make the state’s licensing system simpler and more transparent, the law reorganizes the fees so that they are tied more closely to the four trade skill levels — entry-level, journey-level, master-level and business-level — and also to the cost the state actually incurs to license them. Some fees will go up, while others will go down; however, there will be no net change in total fee revenues to the state.

Miscellaneous

Other provisions included in the law are:

• banning the sale or manufacture of children’s jewelry containing cadmium;

• authorizing a study on the feasibility and impacts of transferring the state’s reserves to accounts in small community banks;

• authorizing a comparative study of state laws regulating small businesses in Minnesota and neighboring states; and

• regulating appraisal management companies.

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