The 201 lawmakers who make up Minnesota’s Legislature brought no shortage of ideas to St. Paul this year. In all, members of the House and Senate introduced more than 5,800 proposed laws — a record high. But by the time they adjourned for the year in late May, just a few dozen proposals had passed both chambers and been signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz. A handful of those measures, including thousands of pages of state budget legislation, take effect July 1. Here’s a look at 10 new measures being added to the state books Monday.
Contacts and glasses
Looking for a prescription for new contacts or glasses? You’ll now need to “see” a provider, even if you get a prescription online. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to the optometrist in person, though; the law allows for the “provider patient relationship” to occur through interactive technologies in some cases. The requirement doesn’t apply to over-the-counter “reader” glasses.
Professional hair braiders are now exempt from Minnesota’s cosmetology regulations, including requirements that they register with a state board and pay a $20 annual registration fee. Before the change, hair braiders needed to rack up at least 30 hours of training to get and keep their license. “Every braider should have the freedom to live the American dream and the right to earn an honest living,” Lillian Anderson, a plaintiff in a legal challenge, told a Minnesota legislative committee during the session.
Sexual assault of a spouse or partner will be easier to punish as a crime under legislation that repealed the so-called “martial rape exception.” The change was pushed by Jenny Teeson of Andover, who came forward after the loophole forced prosecutors to drop rape charges against her ex-husband.
A new, $20 million-a-year state response to the opioid epidemic kicks off. Increased registration fees for companies that make and distribute powerful prescription painkillers will pay for prevention, treatment, research, child protection services and law enforcement efforts. A new 20-member advisory council will decide how to dole out much of the funding.
Local governments can now lower — or raise — speed limits on local roads, thanks to a provision in a transportation spending bill. The change doesn’t apply to town roads, county highways and trunk highways. (Starting Aug. 1, drivers also can get tickets for driving slow and blocking traffic in the left lane, as well as for using mobile phones without hands-free technology.)
Student athlete screens
Organizations that provide free screenings aimed at detecting heart defects and other potentially dangerous conditions in student athletes will get a boost thanks to a change in liability insurance rules. The law previously prohibited such foundations from extending coverage to physicians who volunteer their time for the cause. At least one group, created in honor of a 14-year-old who died of an undetected heart condition during a hockey game in 2014, would have halted its free screenings without the change.
Rare disease research
The University of Minnesota becomes home to the Chloe Barnes Advisory Council on Rare Diseases, a new panel tasked with providing recommendations for research, treatment and education on conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. The legislation is named after a Hopkins girl who died at age 2 of a rare degenerative neural disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy.
Landlords listing an apartment in a building with more than 12 units now need to specify which one the tenant is renting when drafting the lease, under language approved as part of a housing spending bill. Future rental agreements will also need to include move-in and move-out dates. Rent for partial months must be prorated.
A number of bridges and roadways get new (official) names as part of the transportation budget bill. A crossing on U.S. Hwy. 53 in Virginia will henceforth be known as the Tom Rukavina Memorial Bridge, in honor of the longtime Iron Range legislator who died in January. More than a half-dozen other stretches of road will be renamed after fallen service members and peace officers.
Employers who stiff or shortchange employees will face felony charges and up to five years in prison under a package passed as part of a jobs and economic development finance bill. The legislation also direct $2 million to create a Wage Theft Prevention Initiative. Supporters say an estimated 39,000 Minnesotans are victims of wage theft.