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New state laws take effect Wednesday

Several new laws take effect in Minnesota beginning Wednesday, Aug. 1. They address issues related to agriculture, child care, community food shelves, the state’s “move over law,” service animals, sex trafficking, the “Safe Seniors Act” and more. Highlights include:


A new law will broaden exemptions to rules that regulate to agricultural transportation. It expands the definition of harvest season to year-round for an hours of service exemption in intrastate transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies within a 150-mile radius.



Brooks Loftus-Jungwirth plays on a tractor at his grandfather’s Savage farm.

Hours of service requirements are federal regulations governing the amount of driving time, rest periods and logging of on-duty and rest times for commercial motor carriers.

The law also incorporates a federal exemption into state statute to establish a year-round harvest season. That will apply a federal exemption from hours of service rules concerning interstate transportation of commodities and farm supplies.

Transparency for contractors and adjusters 

Residential contractors and insurance adjusters will now have to provide consumers with written notification in the initial home repair estimate that they cannot cover any part of the insurance deductible.

Residential contractors — roofers, building contractors and remodelers — who work on insurance-claimed properties already cannot build the deductible into their estimates. The new law requires the estimates to point to that prohibition in statute.

Protecting seniors

The so-called “Safe Seniors Act” is intended to help fight financial fraud. It will give broker dealers and investment advisors the authority to report suspected financial exploitation of seniors to the Department of Commerce or the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center.

Investment advisors and broker dealers can often see when someone is trying to financially exploit seniors or other vulnerable populations — individuals 65 and older, according to the law, or legally defined as vulnerable — and the act will give them the ability to report the potential threats to the state, and give law enforcement an opportunity to intervene.

Abuse-reporters will have protection from civil and administrative liability.

The law will allow a broker dealer or investment advisor to freeze seniors’ accounts or delay disbursements if they believe financial exploitation has occurred or will occur.

Sibling bill of rights is now law

A so-called “bill of rights” will ensure siblings in foster care get to visit each other. The new law establishes a set of rights for foster care children, including the right to be placed with their siblings when possible and to visit their siblings.

Child welfare agency staff will be required to give a copy of the bill of rights to children upon entry into foster care. The law does not specify ramifications if the rights are violated.

Foster family license holders and caregivers, and foster residence staff are required to undergo at least one hour of training on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders per year. The new law says this must be counted towards the 12 hours of annual training required.

Additionally the Minnesota Assessment of Parenting for Children and Youth tool is used to determine eligibility for Northstar Care for Children benefits. The new law requires the Department of Human Services, in consultation with representatives from communities of color, to review and revise the MAPCY tool to incorporate the diverse needs of different cultures and communities.

Custody rights of unmarried parents

Instead of going through a lengthy court battle, unmarried parents filing for joint child custody will be afforded the same rights as divorced parents.

A new law will allow unmarried parents to file joint petitions for custody, parenting time and child support in family court when all the parties agree on the terms. Before the law, only formerly married parents could use the expedited process.


'I do,' take two

Unmarried parents will now be able to file the joint petition without a summons, so long as the petition includes a recognition of parentage that says there isn’t any other alleged or presumed father.

The law will allow unmarried parents to appear in a hearing before a judge, but not have to go through the entire family court process.

State to count stillbirths along with live births

A new law will count birth defects in stillborn babies when tabulating birth defects in the state. The law includes reporting provisions on stillborn babies with those on live babies. It also requires the state Department of Health to inform parents of a child with birth defects of the privacy implications of the department maintaining records about their child.

Training for care of children with developmental disabilities

A new law exempts certain child care providers from the positive support strategies rule.

“Positive support strategies” in the context of human services means treatment that is ethical, person-centered and integrates the patient with the community. The positive support strategies rule prohibits home and community-based care and other providers licensed by the department, serving persons with developmental disabilities or related conditions, from “using punishment of any kind” as well as “speaking to a person in a manner that ridicules, demeans, threatens, or is abusive,” among other things.

The training section of the rule mandates that providers receive eight hours of training on topics including cultural competence, de-escalation techniques, appropriate use of restraints, and when staff is required to call 911.

Licensed child care programs serving children with developmental disabilities or related conditions will not have to follow the rule. Instead, they must follow the child’s individual child care program plan or individualized education program under existing Minnesota law.

Child care reforms

The Department of Human Services will be ordered to consider reforming child care provider regulations. A new law requires the department to include a review of progress studying possible reforms in its annual report due the Legislature by the end of January 2019.

In addition to the review, the law will require some tweaks to existing regulations. It will mandate the department consider variances to child care staff requirements and will modify circumstances under which a child care license holder must provide written notice to parents for insurance changes. It will do so by specifying that if a license holder has an automatically renewing policy, including the annual renewal date in the initial parental notice is sufficient and valid until the insurance coverage changes or the policy lapses.

Local government

Grants to community food shelves

A new law will allow towns to grant money to community food shelves, putting them on the same level as cities and counties. A town’s governing body will be able to use money from its general fund or any other unrestricted money to provide grants to nonprofits that run community food shelves.


CAP Food Shelf

Staff and volunteers at the Scott Carver Dakota Community Action Partnership Food Shelf can feed a person for an entire month with just $40. 

Cities have been able to provide the grants since 1995; counties since 1998.

A new law will broaden sources available to match funds for local recycling programs by making changes to a Pollution Control Agency grant program that provides financial assistance to metropolitan area counties for development of yard waste composting and recycling programs.


Recycling bin

Recycling bin, corner of East Fourth and Oak streets, Chaska.

Currently, PCA grants must be matched by equal county expenditures. The new law will broaden the entities that may match a state award to include a local unit of government, tribal government, nonprofit organization or private business.

Grant funds will not be used in the development of a product that would be patented or copyrighted.

Sewer authority for metro counties

Seven counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area — Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington — will be granted the same authorities relating to sewer systems that are already provided to municipalities in Greater Minnesota.

A new law will allow counties to construct, maintain and repair waterworks, sanitary sewer and storm sewer systems, with the option of using sanitary sewer and storm sewer charges to cover the costs.

Cities and counties can recognize Purple Heart recipients

A new law will allow local governments to designate themselves as a “Purple Heart City” or a “Purple Heart County.”

The law gives local governments the authority to use resolutions to honor U.S. military personnel who have received the Purple Heart by designating a prominent parking space at government centers, and will allow them to accept donations to pay for a sign stating they are a Purple Heart city or county.


Purple Heart medal

The law will allow counties and cities to display a plaque on public property, as well as honor Purple Heart recipients by proclaiming Aug. 7 as Purple Heart Day.

Public Safety

Service animals must be valid

A new law will make it a crime to knowingly misrepresent an animal in one’s possession as an assistance animal in a public place to obtain rights or privileges available to someone who qualifies for a service animal under state or federal law.

A first-time violation will be a petty misdemeanor; subsequent offenses will be misdemeanors.


PawPADs Graduation (2)

Josh Lawrence of Prior Lake received a certificate for helping to train Timba and other dogs to be service animals in 2012.

The law uses a federal definition to identify a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals. … The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. … The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

A business will be allowed to post a sign near an entrance stating service animals are welcome, but that it is crime to misrepresent such an animal.

Mandated sex trafficking training for hotel employees

A new law mandates that every Minnesota hotel and motel, with the exception of resorts, train its employees to identify sex trafficking at their establishment within 90 days of hiring them or 120 days after enactment of a new law.

The law calls for the Department of Health to consult with the Minnesota Lodging Association and others to determine training that would be required. However, the training must include what sex trafficking is, as well as how to recognize trafficking victims and activities. Costs associated with the annual training will be paid for by the lodging facility.

An exemption is provided for minor employees, restaurant workers and those who do not have direct contact with guests. It also grants civil immunity for employees from being sued for reporting what they believe is sex trafficking.

Quicker turnaround for sexual assault kit testing

Procedures for handling a sexual assault examination kit will be laid out in state law with consistent terminology, time frames for kit handling and provisions that victims have access to information about their kit by:

• requiring law enforcement to retrieve an unrestricted sexual assault examination kit — one that has an accompanying release form from the patient allowing for submission to a forensic lab — from a health care professional within 10 days or receiving notice

• requiring a law enforcement agency to submit a rape kit for forensic testing within 60 days of its receipt unless it “deems the result of the kit would not add evidentiary value to the case,” and make a record, in consultation with a county attorney, stating why the kit was not submitted

• allowing a victim to obtain information about the status of an unrestricted kit.

Failure to comply with the deadlines will not affect the admissibility of the results or create a basis for case dismissal.

Law enforcement agencies will need to adopt policies to govern the process of responding to victim requests for reclassification of a kit if they initially do not want a kit submitted, but later change their mind.

No kratom for minors

Keeping kratom away from minors is one goal of the annual drug scheduling law.

Kratom is an organic supplement that has been listed as an opioid, but not scheduled, by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Five states now categorize kratom as a Schedule I controlled substance, classifying it as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Mixing kratom with alcohol or valium-like drugs creates an increased risk of a severe adverse reaction, including death; however, some people responsibly use kratom to manage pain.

Selling kratom to someone under age 18 will result in a gross misdemeanor penalty; a minor possessing kratom will be charged with a misdemeanor.

The law also adds new drugs to the controlled substance schedules and contains a DWI-related provision. Provisions are put forth by the Board of Pharmacy.


Minnesota’s ‘move over law’ is broadened

A new law will require motorists to slow down on streets or highways with only one lane in the motorist’s direction when passing emergency vehicles — and other vehicles like tow trucks, road maintenance and utility vehicles — that are stopped on the side of the roadway with emergency or warning lights activated.

Similarly, if it’s not possible for a driver to move over on a multi-lane street or highway, drivers are required to reduce the speed of their motor vehicle to a speed “that is reasonable and prudent under the conditions” until the vehicle has completely passed the parked or stopped vehicle.

Highway to honor fallen Wayzata officer

A stretch of U.S. Highway 12 in Wayzata will be renamed “Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Highway.”

Mathews was a Wayzata police officer who was fatally struck in September 2017 by an inattentive motorist while he was clearing debris from the stretch of roadway that will bear his name.

The law authorizes the placement of memorial signs and specifies that funds for them must come from non-state sources.


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