New laws: Will your life change?

  • Updated: July 31, 2008 - 11:32 PM

A number of new laws take effect in Minnesota, affecting everyone from young drivers to caucus-goers to concert-goers and issues from global warming to dangerous dogs. Here's a capsule look:

DRIVING AND TEXTING: During the first six months, newly licensed drivers under age 18 cannot carry more than one passenger under age 20 unless they are immediate family members. During the next six months, they cannot carry more than three such passengers.

In addition, newly licensed drivers under 18 cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months unless they are going between their home and a job or school event and there is no other transportation. The provision does not apply if the driver is accompanied by a licensed driver at least 25 years old.

As of today, it is also illegal FOR ANY DRIVER to text message when a vehicle is in motion or part of traffic.

GLOBAL WARMING: Producers and buyers of industrial and commercial gases with a high "global warming potential" must now report data on their sales and use to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Outdoor lighting fixtures installed or replaced with state funds must use specific cutoff luminaires that conserve energy and minimize light pollution.

Additionally, homeowners can get up to $250 from the state when replacing PVC piping in home heating oil systems with metal piping.

THE 'HANNAH MONTANA' LAW: Because of big ticket purchases before last year's Hannah Montana concert, it is now a gross misdemeanor to sell, distribute or use software that enables buyers to electronically move to the front of the Internet ticket-buying line.

GOVERNMENT MEETINGS, AND GETTING DATA: All closed meetings of a government body must be electronically recorded, unless prohibited by attorney-client privilege. The recordings must be preserved for at least three years. A judge may award attorneys' fees in a case where a government body violated the law.

Government entities that willfully violate the state data practices act now face a penalty from $1,000 to $15,000, up from $100 to $10,000.

EMERGENCY MANAGERS: Any state agency designated as a disaster or emergency response organization must have one person who has completed a required emergency management curriculum.

ELECTIONS: Precinct caucuses are no longer required to be held on the first Tuesday in March. If the two largest parties can agree on a date, they must notify the secretary of state's office by March 1 of the year before the caucuses. If they cannot agree, the first Tuesday in February will be caucus day.

DOGS, AND DOG FIGHTING: Anyone repeatedly convicted of crimes involving dogs that are certified as dangerous can no longer own dogs.

The bond required for an owner of a dangerous dog goes up from $50,000 to $300,000.

All dangerous dogs must be spayed or neutered, and owners must notify animal control authorities if the dog has been moved to a new location.

Regarding dog fighting, anyone who buys tickets to a dog fight is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

TENANTS, UTILITY BILLS AND FORECLOSURES: Tenants can restore utility service by paying past-due charges owed by the landlord. If a building has fewer than five units, tenants can become the utility customer of record.

A notice posted by a utility company indicating it is about to shut off service must describe a tenant's rights to have service continued or restored.

Meanwhile, notices of foreclosure must be given to prospective tenants. If ownership of a building is transferred because of foreclosure, a new owner seeking to evict a tenant must give them two months' notice. Eviction records, under certain circumstances, can also be expunged.

Utility companies are now required to notify local authorities when they shut off utilities to vacant houses.

FLOOD INSURANCE: Insurance companies must annually tell homeowners if their policy does not include flood coverage.

MIKE KASZUBA

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