st. paul, mn
August 1 brings a gaggle of new laws for Minnesota, ranging from the little-discussed (such as establishing Cesar Chavez Day in Minnesota every March 31) to the hard-fought (raising the state's minimum wage). A quick rundown on a selection of the most notable:
For Minnesota's lowest-paid workers, the most welcome move the Legislature made this year was bumping the minimum wage higher for the first time in nearly a decade. The hourly wage moves from $6.15 to $8, the first in a series of steps that will eventually set it at $9.50 an hour - among the highest in the country. That's for big companies - those with gross annual sales topping a half-million dollars. Smaller companies phase up to $7.25 an hour next year, then $7.75 by August 2016. And starting in 2018, the minimum is indexed to inflation, which likely means automatic raises.
Lawmakers moved to protect the privacy of citizens after several state and local governments were hit by lawsuits over improper lookups of personal information. In the best-known case of such snoopery, a Department of Natural Resources employee was accused of checking the driver's license database thousands of times for no good reason. The new law requires governments to set up procedures so that the only people who can view private data are the ones who need to for their jobs. It also expands the notification requirements for a citizen when their personal data is violated, and sets penalties for employees who do it.
The effort to keep toxins out of Minnesota land and waters takes a step forward with a law that blocks any mercury-containing product from going into waste and wastewater disposal streams. It also puts the onus on makers of mercury-containing thermostats for collecting and replacing old mercury thermostats. The same law aims at triclosan, an ingredient in some cleaning and personal hygiene products that lets manufacturers tout anti-bacterial qualities. It bans the sale of products that include triclosan, although that doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2017.
The effort to clamp down on synthetic drugs that have killed some teens and young adults gets a boost with a law that broadens the definition of synthetics. It also empowers the Board of Pharmacy to go after businesses that sell synthetics containing a banned substance. The measure was sponsored by two lawmakers from Duluth, a city that struggled for months to deal with a litany of complaints about a downtown shop that sold synthetics, and includes a provision for financial penalties against synthetic sellers who falsely claim their drug is legal.
Minnesota joined several states seeking to protect domestic abuse victims by going after the gun rights of their attackers. Anyone who's been hit with an order of protection for alleged abuse has to give up their guns, as long as the order is in effect. Anyone convicted of stalking or domestic assault would also have to surrender their weapons.