From health care for the poor to scrap-yard surveillance, new state laws set to take effect in 2014 didn’t grab headlines like the 2013 legalization of same-sex marriage did, but they could still affect swaths of Minnesotans.
Key among the laws passed by the Legislature in 2013 is the one to extend the “ban-the-box” law to private employers. It’s an extension of a state law passed in 2009 that mandates that public employers wait until an applicant is selected for an interview to ask whether they have a criminal record or criminal history. Now the rule extends to all, making Minnesota the third state to do so, behind Hawaii and Massachusetts. The law had a ripple effect when Target Corp. extended its ban-the-box policy nationwide.
The law gets its name from the question on job applications that asks applicants to check a box to indicate whether they have ever been convicted of a felony or a gross misdemeanor.
For jobs that don’t include an interview, employers cannot ask about criminal issues until there is a conditional offer of employment.
The law benefits more than the people simply trying to put the past behind them, said Mark Haase, vice president of the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice, one of several organizations that lobbied for the change.
“Research shows that when somebody with a criminal record can have face-to-face contact, they have more of a chance to get hired rather than have their application thrown in the trash,” Haase said. “That will be good not only for people trying to turn their lives around and support their families, but also to have this growing segment of the population gainfully employed is helpful to the business community because they’ve been missing out on some wonderful employees.”
According to the House Public Information Services department, the following state laws are also set to take effect:
• Health care: About 40,000 additional low-wage earners and their families could qualify for Medical Assistance under a law extending coverage to those making about $15,000 a year or less. The state has exercised the option to expand Medical Assistance under the federal Affordable Care Act. As a result, the federal government will pay all of the cost for adults without children who qualify through 2016. Beginning in 2017, the feds will gradually reduce their share to 90 percent through 2020 and beyond.
• Scrap metal: Although a law went into effect Aug. 1 to prevent stolen cars from quickly becoming scrap metal, effective Jan. 1 scrap-vehicle buyers also must install video surveillance cameras and clearly photograph the face, vehicle and license plate of each seller. They also must provide the information to police upon request.
• Estate sales: Operators of estate sales will be required to guarantee their clients at least $20,000 before agreeing to conduct a sale. The law is the first to regulate estate sales by requiring operators to offer a surety bond, or a promise to pay if they do not fulfill their obligation. Accountants and attorneys are exempt.
• Radon: Home sellers must disclose radon testing, as required under the omnibus health policy law passed last session. One in three Minnesota homes is at risk from radon — an odorless, tasteless gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. The law doesn’t mandate testing, but brochures discussing the issue will be given to home buyers. Sellers with knowledge of radon in the home must tell the buyers and hand over records pertaining to testing, if available. Exclusions include property transferred because of divorce, foreclosure and death, and when no money is transferred.
• Chemical spills: Local jurisdictions must be notified within 24 hours of hazardous chemical spills. Under current law, the state emergency operations center duty officer does not have to notify local authorities, who would find out about a spill days later in an e-mail report. Now the state emergency response center must call local emergency dispatch centers to inform them of a spill.