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New laws go into effect Monday

Several new laws take effect on Jan. 1. Most, but not all, were passed during the 2017 regular session or the special session that followed in late May.

Minimum wage

Beginning Jan. 1, Minnesota’s minimum wage rises from $9.50 to $9.65 for businesses with gross annual revenues of $500,000 a year or more. For businesses with less than half a million in revenue, minimum wages jump from $7.75 to $7.87 an hour.

The changes come as a result of a 2014 law that boosted the minimum hourly wage for larger business to $9.50 as of Aug. 1, 2016. The same law requires the state to index the minimum wage to inflation beginning Jan. 1.

“All Minnesotans who work full time should earn enough to lift their families out of poverty and lead full lives,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a written statement timed with the Aug. 1 wage bump.

Before the legislation took effect, Minnesota had one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, according to the governor’s office. When it was still set at $6.15 in 2014, Minnesota was among just four states with a minimum hourly wage below the national rate of $7.25 per hour, the governor’s office said.

Uniform election dates established

The omnibus elections law bill has established five uniform dates for local 2018 elections.

Effective Jan. 1, a special election in any Minnesota city, town or school district must be held on one of the following dates:

  • the second Tuesday in February
  • the second Tuesday in April
  • the second Tuesday in May
  • the second Tuesday in August (state primary date)
  • the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (general election date).

A special election may be held on a different date in special circumstances. Such is the case for the special election to replace Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, who have both resigned in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal at the Capitol.

That Feb. 12 election will be a rarity, held on a Monday. Dayton said the choice became necessary because both men’s resignations came late in the year, and setting an earlier date might have pushed voting back toward the holidays. The next legislative session starts Feb. 20.

Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, were the election law’s lead authors.

Hearing loss training

Age-related hearing loss is associated with depression, increased incidences of dementia, hospitalizations and falls. But its effects can be mitigated with training that helps the hearing impaired deal with communication barriers. A new law facilitates such training.

Authored by Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, the new law allows home care providers to include age-related hearing loss training in orientation they receive when learning to interact with hearing impaired people who will be in their care.

Home care workers are allowed to count age-related hearing loss training toward their annual training requirements.

Fallen officer plates

Minnesota drivers are now allowed to honor law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty with special license plates.

A bill authored by Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, and Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and passed into law creates the special memorial plates. To obtain one, vehicle owners must pay a $10 plate fee and donate $25 to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association. Plate holders also must contribute at least $5 annually to the association in subsequent years.

Vehicle owners must also pay a $5 fee to transfer the plate to another vehicle. The $10 plate fee will be allocated to the Department of Public Safety vehicle services operating account.

Donations will be appropriated to Public Safety for administrative costs and distribution to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association.

Other special plates

The omnibus transportation bill passed during the 2017 special session adds mopeds to the list of vehicles for which Minnesotans can obtain disability license plates.

A new special license plate for retired law enforcement and another “Start Seeing Motorcycles” plate also are provided beginning Jan. 1. The law sets eligibility and sets plate design and transfer rules.

An annual donation to the motorcycle safety fund will be required for the motorcycle-awareness plates.

Also starting Jan. 1, road authorities can issue special annual permits allowing them to exceed motor vehicle weight limits, so road construction materials can be hauled by six- and seven-axle vehicles.

The transportation bill, authored by Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, and Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, specifies permit fees, sets conditions and allocates permit revenue to a bridge inspection and signage account.

Eye drop refills

Health plans that cover prescription eye drops must now cover refills earlier than the expiration of a 30- or 90-day supply.

That change comes as the result of a bill authored by Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point.

The law also says that insurers that cover prescription eye drops cannot deny refills as long as they are requested by the plan’s insured customer according to terms defined in various sections of the statute.

– Staff reports, House Public Information Services

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