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New Year’s Day brings new laws in Minnesota

Among the changes: surveillance cameras required at scrap yards, criminal history boxes banned from job applications and radon history must be disclosed to home buyers.

Many new laws enacted by the 2013 Legislature will take effect Jan. 1, including a requirement that surveillance cameras be installed at scrap yards, criminal history boxes be removed from job applications and mandatory radon history disclosure be made to home buyers.

The state House of Representatives Public Information Services provided a summary of some of the new laws:

Access to some juvenile court records restricted
Many juvenile court records and proceedings are already closed to the public. A new law affects records stemming from hearings in which a 16- or 17-year-old has been charged with a felony. Those records are currently public even if an initial felony charge is later reduced or dismissed. The new law limits access only to electronic court records. It will not affect public access to hearings or paper records. The law also makes exceptions that maintain public access to electronic records in certain cases involving serious offenses, unless the prosecutor agrees otherwise.

New regulations for estate sales operators
Estate sale operators will be required to guarantee their clients at least $20,000 prior to agreeing to conduct an estate sale. The new law is the first to regulate estate sales by requiring operators to offer a surety bond. Certified public accountants and licensed attorneys, however, are exempt.

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Home sellers must disclose radon gas testing
A requirement for home sellers to disclose radon testing will not mandate testing or mitigation, rather, a Department of Health radon awareness brochure will be given to the 40,000 annual homebuyers across the state at the point of sale. If the seller has knowledge of radon in the home, that information must be disclosed to the buyer. The so-called Radon Awareness Act also requires the seller to hand over records pertaining to radon testing or mitigation of the residence, if available.

Increased community awareness of chemical spills
Under current law, the state emergency response center or a firefighting or law enforcement organization must be notified when a reportable quantity of a hazardous or extremely hazardous substance is released or spilled. There is no requirement to notify local jurisdictions. But the new law requires the state emergency response center to notify a local 911 emergency dispatch center within 24 hours of the notification, unless “the situation requires an immediate response or the area is unknown to the center.” Then, the state emergency response center shall direct the caller to contact local authorities.

Ban the Box law expanded to private employers
Since 2009, state law has banned a public employer from inquiring whether a job applicant has a criminal record or criminal history at the time a person applies for a job. Private employers now also must wait until an applicant is selected for an interview to ask the question. The law will remove the question that asks job applicants to check a box about whether they have ever been convicted of a felony or gross misdemeanor. For jobs that don’t include an interview, employers cannot ask about criminal issues until there is a conditional offer of employment.

Medical Assistance to cover more Minnesotans
An estimated 40,000 additional low-wage earners and their families may qualify for Medical Assistance coverage as a result of a new law that extends coverage to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, including a standard 5 percent income disregard, or about $15,000 per year. The state is exercising its option under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to expand Medical Assistance. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for adults without children who qualify through 2016. Beginning in 2017, the federal government will gradually reduce that support to 90 percent of the cost for 2020 and subsequent years. In addition to the newly eligible, thousands of people currently enrolled in the state-offered MinnesotaCare health insurance program are expected to shift to the expanded Medical Assistance program.

Surveillance cameras required at scrap yards
While Aug. 1, 2013, was the effective date for much of a larger law to prevent stolen cars from quickly becoming scrap metal, scrap vehicle operators also now must install and maintain video surveillance cameras at their operations, effective Jan. 1, 2014. Additionally, still digital cameras or similar devices must be positioned to clearly photograph the face of each seller of a scrap vehicle who enters the location. The scrap vehicle operator shall also photograph the seller’s vehicle, including license plate. Any video must be shown to law enforcement, upon request.