Staples, Minn.,
18:29 PM

Update from the Capitol - July 2019

New laws range from education matters to health and human services to municipal infrastructure

In addition to the passage and signage of the state’s biennial budget for the coming two years, new policy became law on July 1. The new laws range from education matters to health and human services to municipal infrastructure.

Soon, Minnesota will be home to possibly the strictest wage theft rules nationwide. Wage theft is common practice by many employers and is defined as an employer’s failure to pay an employee all earnings at the employee’s rate of pay regardless of circumstance. The new law will prevent employers, including cities and counties, 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 may include fines of up to $10,000 and five years in prison.

Another new law included in the agriculture finance bill calls for new investments throughout Greater Minnesota communities. In particular, the law will put $40 million toward vital broadband infrastructure development in underserved parts of the state, many of which are in our region.

In 2019, the Legislature also addressed Minnesota’s ongoing opioid crisis. The reform creates a new advisory council to establish goals and make funding recommendations; provides funding for county social services to provide child protection services to families affected by addiction; and increases funding to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for additional drug scientists, lab supplies, and special agents focused on drug interdiction and trafficking. To fund this, a new fee will be assessed on drug manufacturers that sell, deliver, or distribute the drug throughout the state. The law also gives implication to opiate-containing controlled substance manufacturers and drug wholesalers, manufacturers, and certain medical distributors.

In addition to increasing general education funding starting in the 2019 school year and helping fund the gap between special education costs and the state and federal funding it receives, the Legislature also addressed the ongoing debate on school safety. Starting July 1, new law provides funding for flexible safe schools that local school districts can use for physical infrastructure security upgrades, and funds for professionals such as school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and school resource officers who help keep students safe.

Other new laws from the 2019 regular session will take effect on Aug. 1 and Jan. 1, 2020. Most notably, Minnesota’s hands-free law takes effect at the end of this month. That new law bans motorists from holding a cellphone while driving and requires any cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle be only through hands-free technology.

About Sourcewell

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.