Thousands of students at Minnesota’s two-year colleges will see tuition relief, doctors will find it easier to practice long-distance medicine and seniors will get to play more bingo under a raft of new laws that will take effect July 1.
The Legislature increased funding to allow two-year colleges to freeze tuition for one year and then reduce tuition by 1 percent the following year. Students at the University of Minnesota’s four-year institutions won’t be as fortunate. Despite funding increases, students at the U will pay 1.5 percent more in tuition this fall, while out-of-state students will face a 7 percent hike.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will use its additional $14 million to hire more investigators for child pornography and human trafficking, more fingerprint and computer forensic examiners, and to make needed equipment upgrades.
“This funding is critical to maintaining those, either highly resource intensive support or specialty examination support through our laboratories,” said Drew Evans, assistant superintendent at the BCA.
In education, schools serving the state’s more than 19,000 American Indian students will get a funding boost, along with four tribal contract schools.
Licensing requirements for some child-care programs will ease, with K-12 nonprofit programs becoming eligible for license exemptions. Such programs would have to inform parents and legal guardians that they are not licensed or supervised by the state and are not eligible to receive child-care assistance payments.
Minnesota physicians who want to practice telemedicine will find a streamlined process that makes it easier for them to become licensed to perform surgeries and other medical procedures using remote control technology. Those physicians will be regulated by the states in which their patients live.
Other new laws would:
• Allow a 4 percent annual pay raise for judges and most court staff that will include funding to cover health insurance premium increases.
• Spend an additional $1.4 million on crime victim services, including $300,000 for organizations providing “culturally specific emergency shelter programming in St. Paul for victims of domestic abuse” and $500,000 for sex trafficking prevention grants.
• Combat the recruitment of Minnesota residents by terrorist organizations such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant through a $250,000 grant to the state Department of Public Safety.
• Put an end to the state’s Political Contribution Refund program, in which individuals could contribute up to $50 to state candidates and get that money refunded by the state. The repeal is expected to save $8.9 million.
• Require drivers for the ride-sharing service Uber to obtain liability insurance. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage also will be required.
• Expand the definition of gambling equipment to include software that supports electronic bingo games. In addition, organizations catering to seniors would be able to offer bingo more than twice a week.