New laws on books

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 28, 2002

Progress is steady if uncertain in continuing budget talks between House and Senate conference committees. The most prominent movement came when Senate leaders agreed to abandon increasing cigarette taxes in exchange for House support of an increase in the gas tax and spending that money on roads. Session is likely to continue into May, but some pieces of legislation that may affect your families have already passed and became law. Following is a glimpse at some of those new laws.

COUNTY LOCKUP COSTS: A measure aimed at controlling the high costs of corrections in Minnesota by holding criminals financially accountable for their actions is now state law. Starting August 1, counties can collect room, board, clothing, medical, dental, and other correctional services for convicted offenders spending time in a county jail, workhouse, or correctional farm.

BACKGROUND CHECKS: A new law modifies the background check statutes to include national inquires on school bus driver endorsements, private detectives, and manufacturers’ and wholesalers’ liquor licenses. It authorizes the exchange of fingerprints in order to do these checks.

Email newsletter signup

CHILD CUSTODY: A new law will help grandparents, siblings and other caregivers more easily obtain legal custody of parentless children they wish to raise. In order to be awarded custody, the caregiver must show that the child was abandoned or neglected or that it is otherwise in the best interest of the child. (Effective Aug. 1)

CLEANER FUELS: State agencies will be required to buy a cleaner burning fuel if it is “reasonably available at similar costs” and is compatible with the vehicle. After August 1, fuels that meet the state’s standard will include a 20 percent biodiesel blend, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, liquefied natural or petroleum gas, and a 70 percent ethanol blend. The new law also directs state agencies to consider purchasing compatible vehicles when replacing the state’s fleet. The Legislature earlier in the session passed a requirement that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain a 2 percent biodiesel as of March 2005, or earlier if the state’s production capacity reaches a certain level and a state or federal tax credit for production is passed.

GLASS REPLACEMENT: Legislation to end offers of free boxes of steaks and other gifts was approved over a gubernatorial veto and will become law. Insurance companies sought this measure to help slow Minnesota’s windshield claims that are far above the national average. The bill would also require insurers who recommend repair shops to their customers to include the following advisory: “Minnesota law gives you the right to go to any glass vendor you choose, and prohibits me from pressuring you to choose a particular vendor.”

HOMEOWNER DISCLOSURE: Starting in 2003, a new law will require home sellers to reveal any conditions that could “adversely and significantly” affect the buyer’s interest in the property. The measure was designed to help protect home buyers and will shield real estate agents from being sued for problems they did not know about. A provision allows the sale of property “as is” if both buyer and seller agree that no legal action would be taken.

SHARING CRIME DATA: Minnesota has joined other states in the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact, an interstate agreement that makes it easier for states to share criminal history data. The compact is an agreement between member states and the federal government to share criminal history information for use in noncriminal background checks.

GAME & FISH: Individuals who violate Minnesota’s game and fish limits will face stiffer penalties under a new law. The legislation targets people who take wild game or fish worth more than $500. Effective March 1, 2003, the Department of Natural Resources can seize boats, motors and trailers used in the action. Poachers will also face fines and the potential lifetime loss of hunting and fishing licenses.

What do you think? I welcome your input and ideas. Please call me at home at 377-9441 or at the legislature, toll-free, at 1-877-377-9441. My legislative office address is 579 State Office Building, 100 Constitution Ave., St. Paul, MN 55155. My e-mail address is: And be sure to sign up for my legislative up-date newsletter at