City and County Legal Updates for Region 5
Several new laws passed during the 2018 session became effective July 1 and Aug. 1. Highlights of the accomplishments legislators made throughout 2018 session include numerous new provisions ranging from local government policy to transportation and public safety. Notable accomplishments include:
The sealed bidding threshold requirements for all municipal (county, town, city, school district, or other municipal corporation or political subdivision) procurement contracts increased from $100,000 to $175,000. The law also extends the range of contract estimates that may be made by direct negotiation from $25,000-$100,000 to $25,000-$175,000. This affects purchasing standards for all Minnesota counties, towns, cities, school districts, and other municipal corporations or other political subdivisions.
The threshold specifically for counties to enter direct bid contracts with small businesses also increased, from $175,000 to $250,000, so long as the business is certified through the appropriate agencies as a small business enterprise or veteran-owned small business.
A new law also allows certain governing bodies to use money from their general fund or any other unrestricted money to provide grants to nonprofits that run community food shelves that provide free food to needy people.
Minnesota’s well-known “move over law” was broadened to require motorists to slow down on streets or highways with only one lane in the motorist’s direction when passing emergency vehicles, and other vehicles including tow trucks, road maintenance, and utility that are stopped on the side of the roadway with emergency or warning lights activated. Drivers must also reduce their motor vehicle speed to one that is considered reasonable under present conditions until the vehicle has completely passed the parked or stopped vehicle.
Lawmakers nearly unanimously passed legislation that closed a loophole in state statute regarding alcohol-related driving offenses and off-highway vehicles while operating the machinery under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law expands the prohibition on operating off-road vehicles following a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) and eliminates an exemption that allowed drivers to keep their licenses following an off-highway vehicle DWI or DUI offense. The new law is in honor of an 8-year-old boy who was struck and killed by an individual operating a snowmobile while intoxicated after his driver’s license had been revoked for a prior offense. Additionally, the law directs the Department of Natural Resources to work with ice fish house manufacturers to increase outreach efforts explaining the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure in ice houses. It requires a report to the legislature by early 2019 that is likely to result in future modifications to statute.
The legislature considered passing multiple pieces of legislation relating to child care. Those tweaks to existing regulation include mandating the Department of Human Services (DHS) to consider variances to child care staff requirements, and modifying notice to parents’ requirements for insurance changes. New policy also ordered DHS to review and propose potential reforms in its next annual report due to the Legislature by the end of January 2019.
Other legislation passed in the 2018 session made it illegal to knowingly misrepresent an animal as a service animal in a public place in order to obtain the same privileges available to someone who qualifies for and uses a legitimate service animal. The Legislature also codified the controversial lawsuit between the state and 3M regarding water contamination. A full review of the legislation that is now law is available online.
2018 has already proven to be a dynamic and important election year in Minnesota for all major political parties. Minnesotans will be voting for both U.S. Senate seats, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, attorney general, and all 134 state representatives. This will be the first election in Minnesota since the late 1970s that both Senate seats, the governorship, and constitutional officers are up for election in the same year and on the same ballot. For a list of all election-related information, visit the Secretary of State website.
Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota’s nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 300 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.