(effective July 1, 2019)
The following is a list of select new laws passed during the 2019 regular and special legislative sessions that took effect July 1, 2019.
Wage theft made a crime
A new law will give Minnesota some of the toughest wage theft rules in the country and will provide a range of other finance and policy provisions in the areas of employment, commerce, and energy. The law will prevent employers from denying employees fair pay, which currently impacts tens of thousands of Minnesotans each year. With the new protections, wage theft will become a felony with penalties that could include up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. To enforce the law, the legislation includes funding for the Department of Labor and Industry to implement a Wage Theft Prevention Initiative and includes protections for employees who become whistleblowers.
Wage theft is defined as, among other things, when an employer “fails to pay an employee all wages, salary, gratuities, earnings, or commissions at the employee’s rate or rates of pay or at the rate or rates required by law.”
While the law went into effect July 1, the criminal provisions are delayed by a month and will go into effect August 1.
This session the Legislature unanimously passed a law that would eliminate what has commonly been referred to as the “marital rape exception” which shields participants in voluntary relationships from prosecution for certain criminal sexual conduct. The new law which takes effect July 1, will repeal statutory language known as the “voluntary relationship defense” and allow for prosecution of individuals accused of committing sexual crimes against a spouse or a long-standing sexual partner.
Effective July 1, Minnesota schools will see an increase in funding available for E-12 education that will be the largest investment in general education funding, special education aid, and voluntary prekindergarten in the state’s history. The law will increase the basic funding formula by 2 percent each year, supports the state’s earliest learners by maintaining 4,000 voluntary prekindergarten seats that were set to expire, and provides special education aid funding to tackle the growing gap between school districts’ special education costs and the state and federal funding they receive.
The new law also secures critical resources for flexible safe schools revenue that local school districts can use for “hard security” upgrades to schools, and for professionals that help keep students safe – like school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and school resource officers.
Agriculture and rural development
The omnibus agricultural and rural development finance law will increase investment in the industry and throughout Greater Minnesota communities. In particular, the law will put $40 million toward broadband infrastructure development in underserved parts of the state.
Amongst other appropriations for the Department of Agriculture, the law includes funds that will increase farmer mental health outreach and expand agency marketing efforts for agricultural products. Additional resources will bolster programs for meat inspection, disaster preparedness and response, noxious weed control, prevention and mitigation of plant pathogens and pests, and agricultural research through the Agricultural Research Education Extension and Technology Transfer program.
Screenings for student athletes
The Patrick Schoonover Heart Foundation works to provide education and free screenings to student-athletes in hopes of preventing deaths caused by undetected heart defects. A new law will enable them to continue pursuing that goal.
Effective July 1, it will expand a volunteer health care provider program to allow that program to provide liability insurance to organizations that provide free monitoring and screening services to detect undiagnosed diseases and conditions.
Previously, the foundation couldn’t access liability insurance for physicians volunteering their time because the primary purpose of the foundation was not the provision of health care services to the uninsured and underinsured.
Funding for more prison officers
Additional dollars for the judiciary, public defenders, corrections officers and the Department of Human Rights are included in the omnibus public safety law that details how the state will fund those state functions and others for the 2020-21 biennium.
Omnibus state government law contains election security
Operating increases for many state departments, the Legislature and state ethnic councils are part of the omnibus state government finance law.
The nearly $1.16 billion law represents a $75.5 million base increase. The following are some funding increases that took effect July 1:
•$11.5 million for the House of Representatives, in part for members’ $1,500 annual pay increases based on a Legislative Salary Council report, staff salary adjustments and changes associated with redistricting.
•$10.5 million for the Revenue Department to maintain current services.
•$10 million to MN.IT Services for cybersecurity enhancements across state government.
•$6.3 million for the Senate (it also received $5 million for Fiscal Year 2019 activity, effective May 31).
•$1.95 million for the Office of the Attorney General to maintain and stabilize experienced employees, who make less than other public law offices, such as county attorney staff.
•$850,000 for the Minnesota Historical Society to maintain current services.
•$400,000 to the Administration Department for a grant to Minnesota Public Radio for upgrades to the state’s emergency and AMBER alert systems.
A $20 registration fee for the practice of hair braiding is abolished and the law provides that hair braiding is not subject to regulation or oversight by the Board of Cosmetologist Examiners.
Veterans and military affairs
Additional veterans-related funding is included in the omnibus state government finance law. Among its increased appropriations, the law will allot:
•$2 million for the Department of Military Affairs to sustain state enlistment incentive and retention bonus programs, such as tuition reimbursement.
•$775,000 for an operating adjustment for state veterans cemeteries.
•$544,000 in program and service operating adjustments for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
•$516,000 to sustain reintegration programs for deployed service members.
•$500,000 to expand Minnesota Service Core that provides free essential, community-based services directly to veterans and their families.
•$100,000 to help upgrade the Armed Forces Service Center at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The nonprofit center is a 24/7 operation staffed by approximately 200 volunteers that serves more than 1,500 active duty military members per month, offering free food and even beds for overnight stays when needed.
Additional new laws from the 2019 session will take effect on Aug. 1 and on Jan. 1, 2020.