A number of new laws passed during the 2018 legislative session go into effect on Aug. 1. Here is a selection of those that may be of interest to attorneys.
3M terms codified: House File 3660 (Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury) puts the terms of the state’s $850 million legal settlement with 3M Co. into law. The law guides management of the $725 million left from the settlement minus attorneys’ fees. It requires funds to be used for clean drinking water and natural resources projects in an area that includes Woodbury, Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Afton and Newport, plus the townships of West Lakeland and Grey Cloud Island. For decades beginning in the 1950s, the manufacturer dumped perfluorochemicals into landfills—a legal practice at the time—contaminating the area’s drinking water. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the DNR are the grant’s trustees.
Sibling bill of rights: House File 3265 (Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls) creates a “bill of rights” for children in foster care, including visitation rights and the right to be home-placed with siblings whenever possible. Child welfare agency staff now must inform children of their rights as they enter foster care. Among the legislation’s other provisions, licensed foster families and foster residence staff must now undergo at least one hour of training on fetal alcohol disorders annually. It also requires the Department of Human Services, consulting with communities of color, to review and revise the Minnesota Assessment of Parenting for Children and Youth tool, which is used to determine Northstar Care for Children benefits.
Unmarried parents’ rights: House File 3295 (Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover) gives unmarried parents the same rights as divorced couples in child custody cases, without forcing them into lengthy court battles. Previously, only parents who were formerly married could use an expedited process. Now they can proceed with a joint petition, provided it recognizes undisputed parentage and the parties are in accord on custody, parenting time and child support. No summons is required to file a joint petition where a decree of dissolution or legal separation has been entered, or when paternity has been adjudicated.
Child support presumption: House File 3389 (Scott) flips the script on how judges presumptively deal with child support orders after child-support legislation is passed, changed or repealed. Previously if a statute’s change affected a support order, courts presumed that was a “not substantial” change in circumstances for purposes of modifying the order. Now the opposite is true. An altered statute is considered a substantial change in circumstances that a judge will weigh when determining whether an order has become “unreasonable” or “unfair” and should be modified.
Fake service animals: House File 3157 (Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston), makes it a crime to knowingly misrepresent an animal as an assistance animal. First-time violations are petty misdemeanors and subsequent offenses are misdemeanors. Businesses are allowed under the law to post a “conspicuous sign” near entrances, stating that real service animals are welcome but fakes are illegal. Property owners are granted immunity for injury or damage caused by a service animal, if the owner believes “in good faith that the animal is an assistance animal or the individual using the assistance animal represents that the animal is an assistance animal,” provided that the damage or injury didn’t result from the property owner’s negligence.
Point-of-sale skimming: House File 817 (Rep. Bob Loonan, R-Shakopee) establishes interfering with electronic terminals—automated teller machines, cash dispensing machines, point-of-sale terminals and gas pump dispensers teller—as a serious crime. Offenders implant electronic card-reading devices into terminals to capture stolen data then often use wireless technology to download it to a laptop. The law expands the state’s unauthorized computer-access crime statutes and creates both a gross misdemeanor and a felony level crime for violators.
DWI loophole closed: Senate File 3638 (Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch) fully incorporates snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and motorboats into the state’s DWI laws by expanding off-road vehicle operating bans following DWI convictions. The law eliminates a loophole that allowed an offender to retain a driver’s licenses after a DWI involving an off-road vehicle. It also keeps offenders convicted of DWI in any kind of vehicle from operating a motorboat for a 90-day period between May 1 and Oct. 31. The law, dubbed “Little Allen’s Law,” was prompted by the death of 8-year-old boy on Chisago Lake after he was struck by a drunken man who operated a snowmobile despite license revocation from after a prior DWI offense. Separately, the legislation increases awareness for carbon monoxide dangers in fish houses.
Sexual assault kits: House File 3017 (Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake) lays out new procedures for handling sexual assault examination kits. It decrees that within 60 days of receiving a sexual assault exam kit, a law enforcement agency must submit it to a forensic lab for testing, among other changes. The law provides that victims must be given access to active investigative information about their exam kit’s status upon written request, either from the victim or the victim’s designee.
Business and commerce
Contractor transparency: House File 2899 (authored by Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville) requires residential contractors and insurance adjusters to include in their initial home repair estimates written notice that contractors may not pay any part of a customer’s insurance deductible. The prohibition was already in existence, but the new law makes it mandatory to point out that fact to customers.
Credit unions’ internal policies: House File 3224 (Rep. Randy Jessup, R-Shoreview) updates how state-chartered credit unions may handle their internal policies. The law allows credit unions to adopt, change or jettison their bylaws if a resolution has support from at least 3 percent of members. It also allows members to vote electronically, among other changes. For example, a credit union board can expel a member who violates a membership agreement, breaks the law or otherwise acts inappropriately.
Safe Seniors: House File 3833 (Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne), known as the “Safe Seniors Act,” gives broker-dealers and investment advisors authority to alert the Commerce Department or the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center if they suspect that a senior is being financially exploited. It also allows a broker-dealer or investment advisor to freeze a senior’s accounts or delay disbursements, if they suspect a senior has been or is about to be exploited. The law provides immunity from administrative or civil liability if the financial professional acts in good faith to prevent fraud.
— Source, Minnesota House Public Information Services, staff reports