Get to know your new Minnesota laws [LIST]
Miraculously, the Minnesota Legislature found time in its busy schedule of not making a budget to pass a few bills.
Not only that, but Mark Dayton actually signed these pieces of legislation, promptly, and they're about to debut as new laws.
Starting August 1, there'll be new rules on the books about restaurant servers pooling their tips, drug testing for pro athletes and running away from the cops. Plus, an important new law open a "church lady" loophole for food inspections.
Times like this give Minnesotans a chance to realize the things that weren't laws, but seemed like they should've been. For example, any caretaker who has sex with a vulnerable adult -- that is, a person with a physical, mental or emotional disability -- will have to register as a sex offender... which means that they didn't have to do that before now.
Oh, and whatever you do, don't you dare hurt a police horse or K-9.
Here are a handful of the new laws that go into effect on Monday, via the House of Representatives Public Information Service:
Employers can organize tip sharing
A new law makes it easier for restaurant workers to pool their tips or for a restaurant owner to safeguard them for employees. The law allows employers, at their employees' request, to safeguard and disburse tips according to a sharing agreement; and to report the amounts received for tax purposes. Employees may not coerce employees to share gratuities.
Pawn shop regulations eased
A new law will make it easier for pawn shops to manage their inventory. The law standardizes a 60-day maximum redemption period for a pawn transaction. It allows pawnbrokers to return, sell or remove inventory from display after the redemption period is reached, or after 31 days for inventory purchased other than through a pawn transaction. It also repeals a state requirement that pawn shops be located at least 10 driving miles from any casino. Except for the standardized redemption period, municipalities may regulate pawn businesses or transactions more restrictively.
Home repair contractors
Minnesota home repair contractors have been busy during the past few years as homes have taken a beating from hail storms, twisters and other natural disasters. A new law modifies a 2010 law relating to contracts for residential home repair, and it offers more consumer protection from "fly-by-night" contractors, including those from out of state, who compete for Minnesota contracts after storms or natural disasters. The law will add siding contractors as well as roofing contractors to those prohibited from offering to pay for an insured's deductible or to compensate an insured as an incentive to gain a contract. It also broadens the current law's language regarding the types of inducements that contractors are forbidden from offering to property owners. It also gives the labor and industry commissioner authority to enforce the law.
Alternative pathways to teacher licensure
Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, alternative licensure programs may be created by a school district or charter school in partnership with a college or university with a Board of Teaching-approved alternative teacher preparation program. A new law directs the board to approve qualified programs offering alternative pathways to teacher licensure in order to improve academic excellence, improve ethnic and cultural diversity in the classroom, and close the academic achievement gap. Candidates must have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average or a waiver from the board; pass basic reading, writing and math skills exams; and obtain qualifying scores on board-approved content and pedagogy exams. The board is directed to streamline the path for teachers holding out-of-state licensure from accredited programs to Minnesota licensure. Candidates who have completed another state's alternative teacher preparation program may apply for a standard Minnesota license.
Food inspection exceptions
The efforts of a couple of self-professed "church ladies" from Goodhue County saved their church dinners thanks to a new law that exempts meals served by faith-based organizations from certain Health Department food inspection regulations, including inspections. The legislation grants certain organizations with tax-exempt status exemption from food regulation statutes. It would also affect organizations that are affiliated with or related to a sportsman organization. It also adds a limitation that events must be held in the organization's building or on the grounds. Pat Irrthum and Kathy Theel began their efforts to reform the law that jeopardized their church dinners at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Zumbrota after Goodhue County relinquished its food inspection service for nonprofits last year as a cost saving measure. The Department of Health took over the duties for the county and last spring informed parishioners at the church and other area churches that they were in violation of a state law that requires permits for nonprofit events where homemade food is served.
High standard for pro athlete drug tests
Minnesota drug testing laws will recognize labor agreement provisions regarding drug and alcohol testing for professional athletes. Professional sports contracts often include drug testing requirements that are more stringent and tougher than Minnesota laws. The measure has the support of professional teams and labor organizations.
Vulnerable adult protections
A new law makes reforms to the Vulnerable Adult Act, which was last substantially revised in 1995 to include making it a crime for vulnerable adult care facility workers or caregivers to engage in sexual conduct or penetration with a vulnerable adult in their care. But the law does not include language that requires someone convicted of these crimes to register as a predatory offender. The law will also increase the fourth-degree assault penalty from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor for those who know or have reason to know their target is a vulnerable adult and still assault that person because of the perceived vulnerability and cause bodily harm in the act. In Minnesota, a vulnerable adult is defined as someone who receives nursing home care services or has impairments that make it impossible for them to care for themselves on a daily basis and are sufficiently impaired that they cannot protect themselves from maltreatment.
Protecting law enforcement assistants
New legal protections will be afforded reserve law enforcement officers, horses operated by reserve officers, utility workers and postal carriers. The law adds to the word "statutory" to the definition of a law enforcement reserve officers and will make it a gross misdemeanor to assault the person. Additionally, horse-mounted reserve officers or trail horses will be given the same protection afforded to mounted peace officers and their horses, "while the reserve officer is operating at the direction of, under the control of, or on behalf of a peace officer or a law enforcement agency." The law also expands the gross misdemeanor fourth-degree assault crime to include attacks against utility employees and contractors, as well as postal carriers while involved in their professional duties.
Tougher penalty for fleeing peace officer
The crime of fleeing a peace officer when the result of doing so results in a death that does not constitute murder or manslaughter has been modified. A new law extends current law to situations where a suspect initially flees police in a motor vehicle, but abandons the vehicle and continues to flee in another way. Current flee-on-foot statute does not address penalties for causing serious harm or death to others if pursuit of a felonious criminal goes from vehicle to foot. However, if the occupants are still in the car, they can be charged for all the harm caused by their actions.
Sex offender residency restriction clarified for courts
A new law authorizes a court to bar a juvenile found guilty of a sex crime from residing within 1,000 feet, or three city blocks, of the victim. The law inserts permissive language to ensure the court system fully understands that a judge has the option to issue such restraining orders in cases where the juvenile offender is over age 15 and does not live in the same home as the victim. The law also states that the residency restriction could be ordered for all or part of the time that the offender is under court jurisdiction.
Tough penalty for harming police dog
A new law will increase the penalty for injuring public safety dogs and impose mandatory restitution on offenders who harm these animals. It also extends the gross misdemeanor offense of harming a public safety dog to cases where the dog suffers demonstrable bodily harm. Further, the law creates a new offense whereby it is a misdemeanor to assault a public safety dog where the animal does not suffer "demonstrable bodily harm." The impetus for the law was Major, a German Shepherd stabbed Nov. 12, 2010, as Roseville police assisted Maplewood officers responding to a break-in. After finding a suspect, officers heard Major crying in pain. He had been stabbed four times. He was rushed to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center for emergency surgery. While Major survived, he did not regain use of his back legs.
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