Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - June 28, 2006

New state laws take effect

By Melissa Andrie

A number of new state laws, passed this year by the legislature, are now in effect, or soon will be. The following synopsis looks at a number of new laws that may affect local citizens or be of interest to them.

*Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): The exemption amount for the alternative minimum tax was increased to $60,000 for married couples filing joint returns, $30,000 for married couples using separate returns, and $45,000 for unmarried filers, effective in the tax year 2006. This is up from $40,000 for married joint filers, $20,000 for married separate filers, and $30,000 for unmarried filers.

After the 2006 tax year, the exemption will be annually adjusted for inflation.

*Marriage penalty credit: The standard deduction for joint married filers is now double that of single tax filers, which corrects a $109 penalty that for married joint filers. Also, tax bracket calculations that put penalties on married joint filers were adjusted to further counteract the tax penalty for married couples.

*Twins stadium: A new stadium for the Minnesota Twins was authorized, which will be financed by a Hennepin County sales tax and by the owner, Carl Pohlad.

*Gophers stadium: A new Minnesota Gophers football stadium was approved, and it will be paid for by the state, a $50 annual fee for students, corporate sponsorship, and donations.

*Video game use: Those under the age of 17 may not knowingly rent or purchase restricted video games. Restricted games are those rated for adults only or mature audiences.

*Snowmobile stickers: State trail stickers are not required for government snowmobiles, collector snowmobiles on a special permit, or those operating snowmobiles on the portion of a trail owned by them or their immediate families.

*Horse trail passes: Starting in January, horseriders 16 years of age and older will be required to display valid horse trail passes while riding, leading, or driving a horse on horse trails or state-owned land. Annual passes cost $20 and daily passes cost $4, with both subject to a $1 issuing fee. Funds from the passes will be used for trail acquisition and maintenance.

*Boxing regulations: All boxing and tough person contests will be regulated by the newly created Minnesota Boxing Commission, unless federal law applies.

Road Rules
*DWI penalties: A DWI will be a felony crime if a person has previously been convicted of a felony.

*Reckless driving: Racing vehicles will now be reckless driving, regardless of whether a vehicle goes over the speed limit, except in emergency situations and at approved public events.

*Cell phone use while driving: Minors caught talking on cell phones while driving, which was made illegal starting in January, are now guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

*Electric vehicles: Low-speed electric vehicles - those having a top speed between 20 and 25 miles per hour - can be driven on roads and highways with a speed limit of up to 35 miles per hour if registered properly.

*Organ donation instruction: Driver's education classes will be required to include at least 30 minutes of instruction on organ and tissue donations.

*Proof of identity: Tribal identification cards are sufficient to prove identities for driver's license and identity card applications.

*Funeral disruptions: Intentional disruptions of any type of memorial service for a deceased person are prohibited. Anyone who causes such disruptions is guilty of a misdemeanor for the first offense and a gross misdemeanor thereafter and is liable for damages.

*Repeat offenses: Misdemeanor drug paraphernalia crimes, trespassing, and loitering with the intent of prostitution will all be gross misdemeanors for repeat offenders, if committed within three years of a previous offense.

*Clean waters: The Clean Water Legacy Act was passed, which is to protect, restore, and preserve surface waters in the state. Money was provided for this through the bonding and supplemental budget bills.

*Mercury emissions: Two kinds of units that generate electricity using coal are required by law to reduce mercury emissions by over 90 percent by 2014. These units give off more than 75 percent of the mercury emissions of all such plants in Minnesota.

Utility companies must also provide information to customers on how to properly dispose of fluorescent lamps, which contain mercury.

*State park use: Active military personnel serving outside Minnesota, whether residents of Minnesota or not, do not need to buy entrance permits for state parks. This benefit applies for 90 days after the active service is completed.

*Employment leave for families: Public and private employers are required to grant unpaid leave of up to one day for any employee whose immediate family member is mobilized into active military service. Up to 10 days of unpaid leave must be granted to an employee if an immediate family member is injured or killed while in active service.

*Pay differential: State employees mobilized for active military service are eligible for pay differential when mobilized as reserve members of all uniformed services, not just reserves of the U.S. Armed Forces and Minnesota National Guard. Therefore, anyone mobilized in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Public Health Service would be eligible.

*Higher education: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities must give credits to veterans for their military training or service, if the courses meet educational standards. These institutions and the University of Minnesota must treat all veterans as Minnesota residents for undergraduate tuition purposes.

*Professional licensing: Anyone holding a state occupation or professional certificate or license when deployed may apply for its renewal up to six months after deployment without fees or other conditions, regardless of whether it expires during their service. Under previous law, only some licenses could be renewed by members of the military if they had not expired.

*Medical licenses: Anyone mobilized to serve in the military while going through the medical licensure process has an extra three years in which to complete the three-step exam.

Information privacy
*Credit report freezes: Consumers may place security freezes on their credit reports starting in August. Consumers who are not victims of identity theft may be charged $5 for placing, temporarily lifting, or removing a security freeze.

*Private information: Businesses are required to provide notification if personal information is disclosed to unauthorized people. For this law, personal information means a first name or first initial and last name, along with a Social Security number, driver's license or Minnesota ID number, or account number with required information to access a financial account.

*Social Security numbers: Social Security numbers cannot be used to identify accounts or be printed on envelopes for bulk mailings of credit card offers.

*Genetic information: Government entities may not collect personal data based on iris scanning or facial recognition. Genetic information may only be collected by the government with informed consent of individuals and used for purposes to which they have agreed.

*Unauthorized computer access: It will be a gross misdemeanor to intentionally and without authorization get personal data after penetrating a computer security system.

(Editor's note: New laws on education, health care, and other topics will be in next week's Press.)

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community