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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch - Sleepy Eye, MN
  • New laws to take effect Jan. 1

  • Increased surveillance needed at scrap yards, expanded Medical Assistance coverage and radon disclosure are some of the topics covered by new laws that take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
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  • Increased surveillance needed at scrap yards, expanded Medical Assistance coverage and radon disclosure are some of the topics covered by new laws that take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
     
    The following is a listing of selected new laws passed during the 2013 legislative session.
     
    Access to some juvenile court records will be restricted. Many juvenile court records and proceedings are already closed to the public. A new law affects records stemming from hearings in which a 16 or 17-year-old has been charged with a felony. Those records are currently public even if an initial felony charge is later reduced or dismissed. The new law limits access only to electronic court records. It will not affect public access to hearings or paper records. The law also makes exceptions that maintain public access to electronic records in certain cases involving serious offenses, unless the prosecutor agrees otherwise.
     
    New regulations are placed on estate sales operators. Estate sale operators will be required to guarantee their clients at least $20,000 prior to agreeing to conduct an estate sale. The new law, sponsored by Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield) and Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights), is the first to regulate estate sales by requiring operators to offer a surety bond. Certified public accountants and licensed attorneys, however, are exempt.
     
    A requirement for home sellers to disclose radon testing is one of the major provisions contained in the omnibus health policy law sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) and Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville).
     
    Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and one in three Minnesota homes pose a risk from the odorless, tasteless gas, said Laine. The law will not mandate testing or mitigation, rather, a Department of Health radon awareness brochure will be given to the 40,000 annual homebuyers across the state at the point of sale. If the seller has knowledge of radon in the home, that information must be disclosed to the buyer.
    The so-called Radon Awareness Act also requires the seller to hand over records pertaining to radon testing or mitigation of the residence, if available. There are some exclusions to the disclosure requirement, such as property transferred due to divorce, foreclosure, death of a family member or when no money is transferred.
     
    A new law will increase local community awareness about chemical spills. Under current law, the state emergency response center or a firefighting or law enforcement organization must be notified when a reportable quantity of a hazardous or extremely hazardous substance is released or spilled. There is no requirement to notify local jurisdictions. Sponsored by Rep. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park) and Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), a new law requires the state emergency response center to notify a local 911 emergency dispatch center within 24 hours of the notification, unless “the situation requires an immediate response or the area is unknown to the center.” Then, the state emergency response center shall direct the caller to contact local authorities.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ban the Box law is expanded to private employers. Since 2009, state law has banned a public employer from inquiring whether a job applicant has a criminal record or criminal history at the time a person applies for a job. Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) sponsor the so-called Ban the Box law, which will add private employers to those who must wait until an applicant is selected for an interview to ask the question. The law will remove the question that asks job applicants to check a box about whether they have ever been convicted of a felony or gross misdemeanor. For jobs that don’t include an interview, employers cannot ask about criminal issues until there is a conditional offer of employment. Employers who violate the new law within the first year will be subject to a written warning after their first offense, followed by cash penalties for any subsequent violations.
     
    Medical Assistance has been expanded to cover more Minnesotans. An estimated 40,000 additional low-wage earners and their families may qualify for Medical Assistance coverage as a result of a new law that extends coverage to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, including a standard five percent income disregard, or about $15,000 per year.
    Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth) and Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato) sponsor the law that allows the state to exercise its option under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand Medical Assistance. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for adults without children who qualify through 2016. Beginning in 2017, the federal government will gradually reduce that support to 90 percent of the cost for 2020 and subsequent years. In addition to the newly eligible, thousands of people currently enrolled in the state-offered MinnesotaCare health insurance program are expected to shift to the expanded Medical Assistance program. The law transfers about $63.6 million from the Health Care Access Fund to the General Fund in the 2014-15 biennium to cover the cost of insuring some MinnesotaCare enrollees who are not eligible for the full federal funding under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
     
    Surveillance cameras will be required at scrap yards. Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) sponsor a new law that aims to expand licensing and regulatory provisions as they relate to scrap metal and scrapped vehicle purchases. While Aug. 1, 2013, was the effective date for much of a larger law to prevent stolen cars from quickly becoming scrap metal, scrap vehicle operators must install and maintain video surveillance cameras at their operations, effective Jan. 1, 2014. Additionally, still digital cameras or similar devices must be positioned to clearly photograph the face of each seller of a scrap vehicle who enters the location. The scrap vehicle operator shall also photograph the seller’s vehicle, including license plate. Any video must be shown to law enforcement, upon request.
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