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2008 SESSION SUMMARY Dear Friend: Now that the legislative session has concluded, I want to take a moment to share with you my assessment of the Legislature's accomplishments this year. There is no doubt that it was one of the most productive and efficient sessions in many years. It was a session marked by compromise and bipartisan cooperation, which resulted in achievements that all Minnesotans can be proud: a balanced budget, direct property tax relief to homeowners, additional resources for our schools and nursing homes, a major transportation initiative, health care reform, and a strategic jobs/capital improvements bill that focuses on higher education and environmental initiatives. Budget The Legislature faced a challenging task this year when it began its session on February 12--balancing the state budget in the face of a $935 million deficit. I am pleased to report the Legislature met the challenge, and did so in a fiscally sound manner. The deficit was addressed in a balanced way through a combination of budget reductions, use of reserve funds, and increased revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes. No general tax increases were used to erase the deficit. Property tax relief Whether you are a senior living on a fixed income, a two-income family, or an individual whose wages simply haven't kept up with increasing costs, rising property taxes can seriously limit your ability to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing, and health care. Sadly, for homeowners all across Minnesota property taxes have increased significantly in recent years. To combat that trend the Legislature enacted a major property tax relief plan. Included in the initiative is an expansion of the Property Tax Refund Program, which provides direct tax relief to homeowners whose property taxes are high relative to their incomes. Approximately 70,000 Minnesotans will benefit from this expansion. In addition, local governments will also receive more aid in order to lessen their reliance on property taxes to fund needed services. Levy limits were also imposed on local units of government to further help control escalating property taxes. This is what I hope is just a first step toward more permanent property tax relief in the future for Minnesota's homeowners. Schools Another area of particular concern to me is the financial struggles many school districts are confronting in order to provide Minnesota's children with the quality education they deserve. That is why I was pleased the Legislature was able to enact an education package that gives our schools additional resources to help secure the educational future of our children. Among the highlights, the Legislature increased funding $51 per pupil to all school districts—the equivalent of a 1% increase on the basic funding formula. In addition, the Permanent School Trust Fund offset to the General Fund was eliminated effective 2010, resulting in additional revenues to all school districts of approximately $30 per pupil. School districts were also granted flexibility to use $51 per pupil from their operating capital reserve account for general fund purposes, if they are able. The Legislature also provided aid increases to cover certain specific expenses, such as the cost of developmental screenings. All of this funding is in addition to the 2009 formula increase of 1% that was passed in 2007. The situation our schools are facing is a long-term problem that needs a solid, long-term solution. And while this year's legislation is a short-term fix, it is a necessary step to set the stage for a comprehensive education reform measure in the coming 2009 Legislative Session. Transportation By partnering with business organizations, labor, agriculture organizations, conservation groups, and others, the Legislature was able to enact a transportation package that stimulates the economy, improves the safety of our state's roads and bridges, and provides property tax relief. The legislation will provide a $6.6 billion investment in roads, bridges and transit over the next 10 years. That means important projects will get funding to move forward. A broad coalition of Minnesotans, including Democrats and Republicans, came together in support of this responsible investment in order to address a transportation problem the highly respected, nonpartisan Legislative Auditor characterized as "grim." In laying out its support for the package, the Chamber of Commerce stated, "it demonstrates to the public leadership on transportation, and should increase their confidence in our state's transportation system." Health care Thousands of Minnesotans are being financially squeezed as the cost of their health insurance outpaces their wages. For others, the prohibitive cost of health insurance simply prices them out of the insurance market altogether leaving them uninsured. The Legislature addressed this problem with the passage of a landmark health care reform initiative that contains a balanced combination of creative private market solutions, as well as improvements to the more traditional public health care programs. For example, "quality incentive payments" are established to reward providers who deliver quality outcomes—payments for positive results, not just for going through the motions of attempting to treat a condition. It is the concept of "pay-for-performance" brought to the delivery of health care. This health care reform package, along with the health care initiatives enacted by the Legislature last year, will result in new coverage to 117,000 Minnesotans—a 1/3 reduction in the number of uninsured Minnesotans in just two years. Jobs/Capital Investments A $821 million capital investment/jobs package was enacted into law that will help "jump-start" Minnesota's ailing economy by creating thousands of good paying jobs. It makes timely investments that will help businesses, and Minnesota's colleges and universities create the jobs of tomorrow—high-tech jobs that will be filled by our children and grandchildren. That productive workforce will be more important than ever as Minnesota products and ingenuity compete around the world. I am very pleased with the outcome of the session. A myriad of vital issues were given quality attention. In fact, the work of the Legislature this year led one Republican legislator to conclude midway through the session, "this is not a do-nothing legislature." Enclosed is a handout that reviews in more detail the session's activities. The attached summary is by no means exhaustive so, if you have any questions about these or any other issues, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to provide you with additional information. As we look to the future, it is my hope that in upcoming sessions we can build upon the significant achievements that were enacted this year, and continue our progress toward keeping Minnesota the finest state in which to live, work and play. I am committed to working on a bi-partisan basis for the good of our community and will always place Minnesota's long-term needs ahead of partisan politics. Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve you in St. Paul. As always, please don’t hesitate to share your views on issues that are of concern to you. Sincerely, Sheldon Johnson State Representative Enclosure 2008 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY TAXES/CREDITS/AIDS/BUDGET Budget: Balanced state budget through a combination of budget reductions, use of reserve funds, and increased revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes. No general tax increases were used to erase the $935 million deficit. In accomplishing this task the Legislature led by example and imposed a budget cut on itself similar to the reductions imposed on other state agencies. Property tax relief: Expanded the Property Tax Refund Program, which provides direct tax relief to homeowners whose property taxes are high relative to their incomes. Approximately 70,000 Minnesotans will benefit from this expansion. Local aids: LGA increased $42 million. County program aid increased $22 million. Both aid categories will receive additional increases of 2% in FY 2011 and 4% in FY 2012. Also, county transition aid reinstated and made permanent. With these additional aids local governments will be less likely to need to increase property taxes to fund services. Levy limit: For three years, a city or county's levy plus aid may only grow by 3.9% or the implicit price deflator (whichever is less), 50% of the increase in households, and 50% of growth in taxable market value due to new commercial construction. In addition, special levies are exempt from the limit such as for those for police and firefighter costs. Closed corporate loopholes: Closure of tax loopholes used by Minnesota corporations to shelter income through phony overseas corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Tax compliance: Increased tax compliance efforts to ensure that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they already owe. Among the initiatives, the Commissioner of Revenue will establish a process for the comparison of account information held by financial institutions with the Department of Revenue's database of debtors. Deferred comp exclusion for nonresidents: Eliminated the exclusion from taxable income for wages that were earned when the taxpayer was a Minnesota resident and received when the taxpayer was not a Minnesota resident. The elimination of this exclusion prevents wealthy CEOs and executives from earning large stock compensation packages in Minnesota and then moving out-of-state to avoid paying taxes on them. The exclusion remains for traditional defined pensions, 401k, 403b, 457 plans and IRAs which are often held by average Minnesotans. Federal conformity: Conformed Minnesota ’s income tax code to many of the federal changes enacted since May 18, 2006. Conformity reduces taxpayer confusion, makes filing state income tax simpler, and provides tax benefits that Minnesotans expect. In many instances taxpayers will no longer have to add income back into their calculation for state taxes after calculating their federal tax. Homestead of blind or disabled person: Increased the market value eligible for the 1b classification from $32,000 to $50,000. This class includes homestead property of persons who are blind and any person who is permanently and totally disabled. Mall of America: City of Bloomington authorized to impose a series of local taxes (lodging, admissions and recreation, food and beverage, and sales) to facilitate the Phase II expansion of the Mall of America. Green Acres: Rural vacant land no longer eligible for the program; vacant land that is already enrolled is grandfather in. Eliminated the minimum income requirement and the "primarily devoted to agriculture" test. Property taxes-nonprofits: A one-year moratorium is placed on changes in assessment status for non-profits except in narrow circumstances. The moratorium is in response to a December 2007 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that narrowed the criteria used to determine whether an organization is eligible for a property tax exemption. The court decision placed many non- profits at risk of losing their property tax exempt status. The moratorium ensures that no changes will be made in a non-profit's property tax exemption while a permanent solution is developed. Veterans/military personnel: Numerous tax provisions of benefit to veterans and military personnel were enacted (see "Veterans Services/Military Affairs" section below) K-12 AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION K-12 funding: Increased funding of $51 per pupil to all school districts—equivalent to a 1% increase on the formula. Districts also granted flexibility to use $51 per pupil from their operating capital reserve account for general fund purposes. This funding is in addition to the 2009 formula increase of 1% that was passed in the 2007 session. Permanent School Trust Fund offset: Eliminated the Trust Fund offset to the General Fund in 2010, resulting in additional revenues to all school districts—approximately $30 per pupil unit. Developmental screening aid: Increased from $50 to $75 for a child screened at age three; from $40 to $50 for a child screened at age four; and from $30 to $40 for a child screened at age five or six prior to kindergarten. School milk funding: Increased from 14 to 20 cents for each half-pint that is served to kindergartners. Department of Education: 4% cut to the Department of Education bureaucracy. Q-comp: Districts already receiving Q-comp funds (or with applications pending as of March 20) will continue to receive those funds. Other districts wishing to participate in this alternative teacher compensation program will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis until available funds are exhausted. Report card: Vetoed—new accountability measures would have been added to the school report card to ensure students receive a quality education, including: (1) a growth-based value-added indicator that measures student growth over time, and the effects that grade-level teacher teams, the school, and the school district have on student growth; (2) measures indicating the extent to which current high school graduates are being prepared for postsecondary academic and career opportunities; and (3) data on school safety and students' engagement and connection at school. Physical education: Vetoed—1/2 credit of physical education requirement in order to graduate from high school. Education Partnership: Vetoed—the establishment of a P-20 partnership to create a seamless system of education that maximizes achievements of all students, from early childhood through elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, while also being cost effective. Had it been enacted, the partnership would have examined, among other things, ways to improve preparation for, and transitions to, postsecondary education and work. Dropout age: Vetoed—the age at which a high school student can drop out of school was not increased from age 16 to 18. Sex education: A comprehensive sex education program was not adopted. Appeals process: No appeals process enacted for districts that do not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or for students that don't pass the state reading or math GRAD tests. No Child Left Behind: No opt-out of NCLB. Background checks-coaches: School districts required to conduct a criminal background check on anyone who provides athletic coaching services or other extracurricular academic coaching services regardless of whether any compensation is paid to the person. Background checks-teachers*: School districts now required to expand their background check of a prospective teacher to include contacting the Board of Teaching to determine whether the board has taken disciplinary action against the teacher due to sexual misconduct between the teacher and a student, even if the misconduct was not illegal. A traditional criminal background check would not alert a district to such disciplinary action, since the action is not the result of a criminal proceeding. Early Childhood Education Advisory Council: The council will examine, among other things, how to most effectively create a high quality early childhood system in order to improve the educational outcomes of children so that all children are school-ready by 2020. School employee health insurance pool: Vetoed—a statewide health insurance pool for all school district employees. HIGHER EDUCATION Tuition: MnSCU directed to hold tuition increases to 2% at state colleges and 3% at state universities, and must not increase student fees beyond the amount that is currently planned for the next academic year. The U of M directed not to increase student tuition or fees beyond the amount currently planned for the 2008-2009 academic year. Governor's higher education budget cuts rejected in order to keep tuition increases limited. Parent notification of student misconduct: Higher education institutions can disclose to parents of a student information regarding the student's violation of any law or of any school policy, governing the use or possession of alcohol or of a controlled substance provided the institution has a release form signed by the student authorizing the disclosure. At a minimum, the institution must distribute the needed release forms at parent and student orientation meetings, and notify parents and students about the purpose of the release forms. Americorps service: An income tax subtraction provided for individuals who receive a national service educational award for service in Americorps. TRANSPORTATION Moving Minnesota Forward: A bipartisan $6.6 billion bipartisan transportation package to address years of neglect and under funding was enacted into law. It will provide Minnesotans safer roads, better transit services, combat congestion, create jobs, and assist with property relief. Overall Investment: $6.6 billion for roads, bridges and transit over ten years. Bonding: $1.8 billion in total bonding for road and bridge construction. Fracture Critical Bridges: $600 million in bonding for bridges classified as "fracture critical/structurally deficient." Bridge Improvement Program: A special bridge program was created to accelerate the repair and replacement of Trunk Highway bridges. The program requires: the inventory, classification, and rating of each bridge; a plan for repair and replacement; and a report detailing how MnDOT is attending to our bridges, and how it intends to in the future. Bridge inspections: In the future each bridge must be inspected annually, unless a longer interval not to exceed two years for bridges or four years for bridges classified as culverts is authorized by the commissioner of transportation. Local Roads and Bridges: $60 million in bonding for local bridge replacement and rehabilitation, and local roads. Rural Road Safety: $10 million in bonding for counties to assist in paying the costs of rural road safety capital improvement projects on county state-aid highways. Property tax relief: Increased state resources to local units of government for transportation projects will stabilize the property tax burden carried by local home and business owners. Oversight/reform: Reform measures will ensure Minnesotans get good value for their tax dollars. Department of Transportation Commissioner: Previous commissioner not confirmed. New commissioner appointed. Toll Roads: Existing highways cannot be converted to toll-roads. This restriction does not apply to existing HOV lanes, such as Hwy. 394, nor to the HOV/dynamic shoulder lanes provided for under the Urban Partnership Agreement, similar lanes constructed in the future; or any other general purpose lane that adds capacity. Urban partnership agreement: In order to reduce congestion primarily between downtown Minneapolis and the southern suburbs, funding was provided for the design, conversion, and construction of: (1) a high-occupancy toll lane (HOT) along a portion of I-35W in Dakota and Hennepin counties, (2) a priced dynamic shoulder lane along a portion of I-35W in Minneapolis, and (3) a bus- only transit lane along a portion of Highway 77 in Dakota and Hennepin counties. Single-occupant vehicles wishing to use the HOT and "dynamic shoulder lanes" can do so for a fee. A "dynamic shoulder lane" means the shoulder of a freeway, which vehicles can use during certain periods of time also for a fee. The fee would rise or fall in relation to congestion. Central Corridor: $70 million in funding for planning and development of the light-rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Northstar: Planning will go forward for an extension of the Northstar Commuter Rail Line from the current terminus at Big Lake to Rice. 35W Victim Compensation Fund: $36.64 million appropriated to compensate survivors and the families of victims killed or injured in the 35W bridge collapse. Individuals on the bridge at the time of the collapse will be eligible for up to $400,000 in compensation. Individuals with extraordinary loses will be eligible for additional compensation. The chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court will establish a special master panel to distribute the money. The funds will help avoid lawsuits and speed compensation to the victims. In accepting these funds, survivors and victims' families must agree not to sue the state, the University of Minnesota, the city of Minneapolis or other governmental entities for additional damages. Survivors who do not accept payment retain the right to sue. No punitive damages or lawyers fees will be paid out from the funds. State Patrol: 40 new troopers. Gas tax: Increased 5 cents, plus a 3.5 cent surcharge to pay debt service for bonding. Surcharge eliminated when bonds paid off. Gas tax constitutionally dedicated to improvement of road and bridge related projects. Sales tax: County boards in the seven-county metro area authorized to impose a quarter-cent sales tax for transit projects. No referendum required. All other counties authorized to impose up to one-half cent for a specific transportation project if approved in a referendum. Leased Motor Vehicle Sales Tax: Will now be used to fund transportation initiatives instead of going to the general fund. License tab fees: Increased via removal of caps and a modified depreciation schedule. Vehicles currently registered in Minnesota not impacted. Income tax credit: $25 for low-income Minnesotans to ease impact of gas tax increase. Graduated Driver's License*: New requirements regarding the training, driving hours, and passenger limits for holders of a provisional driver's license. Passenger limits: (1) for the first six months of issuance the driver may not transport more than one passenger under 20 years of age who is not a member of the driver's immediate family; (2) for the second six months of issuance the driver may not transport more than three passenger under 20 years of age who is not a member of the driver's immediate family. This restriction on passenger limits does not apply if a parent or guardian accompanies the driver. Driving hours: for the first six months of issuance a driver who is less than 18 years of age may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless: (1) driving between home and work; (2) driving between home and a school event for which the school has not provided transportation; (3) driving for employment purposes; or (4) accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 25 years of age. Primary seat belt offense: No change in the primary seat belt law. Law enforcement officers can only stop a driver for failure to wear a seatbelt when they have first stopped the motorist for another offense. Speeding violations: No expansion of the "Dimler" law, which keeps speeding violations off of a person's driving record in certain circumstances. Text messaging and cell phone use while driving*: Text messaging, emailing, instant messaging while driving banned unless using voice-activated or hands-free technology, or dealing with an emergency. No ban on voice cell phone use while driving. Move over*: When approaching a road maintenance or construction vehicle, or "highway helper" that has its warning lights activated and is parked or stopped on a street or highway having two or more lanes in the same direction, drivers must move over as many lanes as possible away from the vehicle before passing, if it is possible to do so, just as they must now for law enforcement vehicles. Internet-based driver education: The Department of Public Safety required to submit a report to the Legislature on the feasibility, effectiveness and impacts of Internet-based driver’s education programs for the instruction permit component. School bus driver requirements: Drivers of type III school buses (passenger cars, vans, station wagons, small buses that seat 10 or few people) who are employees of the entity that owns, leases, or contracts for the school bus and who do not have a school bus endorsement must undergo: (1) annual training and certification in safe operation of the vehicle, understanding student behavior, encouraging orderly student conduct, handling student misconduct and emergency situations, proper use of seat belts and child safety restraints, safe loading and unloading of students, etc.; (2) background checks and drug and alcohol testing; (3) annual driver's license verification; (4) physical examination; (5) disqualification for conviction of certain offenses; (6) banned from using cell phones for personal use while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free. Office of Pupil Transportation Safety*: New office created within the State Patrol to enhance school bus safety. "Get your stuff back"*: Towers who impound a vehicle must allow people who are poor to retrieve from the vehicle all of their personal belongings without charge regardless of whether they pay the incurred towing charges or reclaim the vehicle. Credit card payment study: The Department of Public Safety required to submit a proposal to the Legislature for a method that allows credit and debit card payments of vehicle registration taxes, certificate of title transactions, and driver’s license and ID card fees. Currently, credit/debit card payments are not permitted. Pavement life-cycle cost analysis: For each reconditioning, resurfacing, and road repair project MnDOT must perform a life-cycle cost analysis on all of the pavement alternatives considered. "Life- cycle cost" is the sum of the cost of the initial pavement project and all anticipated costs for maintenance, repair, and resurfacing over the life of the pavement. Major highway projects: MnDOT required to submit a report to the Legislature on the status of "major highway" projects – projects over $10 million in Greater MN and over $25 million in the Metro area. The report is to include the project's scope, history, costs, permit approval status, ranking, reason for the ranking, changes in the ranking, and reasons for delays in letting the project. Rail safety inspector: MnDOT directed to create the position of Rail Safety Inspector to inspect tracks, yards, rights-of-way, public crossings, etc. in order to enhance public and worker safety. Highway signs: 24-hour pharmacy services will be permitted on the highway signs that currently show gas, food, lodging, and camping services. Internet bidding: MnDOT allowed to use Internet bidding for all trunk highway contracts regardless of the contract size. HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES Health care reform: Major health care reform was enacted that contains a balanced combination of creative private market solutions, as well as improvements to the more traditional public health care programs. This health care reform package, along with the health care initiatives enacted by the Legislature last year, will result in new coverage to 117,000 Minnesotans—a 1/3 reduction in the number of uninsured Minnesotans in just two years. Increased access: Increased access to health insurance through the private sector and public health programs--coverage for 12,000 people. MinnesotaCare eligibility expanded to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines for childless adults. For families with children the income eligibility cap increased to $57,500. Employers with 11 or more full-time employees must establish a Section 125 Plan to allow their employees to purchase individual market or employer-based health coverage with pretax dollars, but can opt-out of establishing the plan in certain instances. Financial incentives are provided to employers to establish Section 125 plans, and to increase participation in already existing 125 plans. Section 125 plans are plans that allow employees to pay for health insurance premiums with pretax dollars. Affordability standard: An affordability scale created that limits the cost of health care to 8% of income for a person with an income between 275% to 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. The limit decreases as income decreases. Initially, these limits will only apply to enrollees in the MnCare program, but the commissioner of health will develop a health care affordability proposal for eligible individuals and employees with access to employer-subsidized health coverage and with gross family incomes of 300% of the federal poverty guidelines or less. The commissioner will explore how best to assist those individuals cover that portion of their health care costs that exceed the limit. The assistance could come in the form of direct payments, tax credits, tax deductions or a combination of all three as mechanisms for providing affordable health coverage to those individuals and families. Payment reform: A series of payment reforms were enacted, including the establishment of "quality incentive payments" to reward providers who deliver quality outcomes—payments for positive results, not just for going through the motions of attempting to treat a condition. It is the concept of "pay-for- performance" brought to the delivery of health care. Public health improvement: A statewide public health grant program created for local communities to reduce obesity and smoking rates. Measurable outcomes will be set for communities to meet. Health care homes: There will be better care coordination in private and public health care programs for prevention, acute, chronic, and end-of-life health services. This new type of care delivery focuses on coordinating care for people with expensive chronic conditions, who account for approximately 80% of total health care spending. When used by Mayo clinic employees, this model led to a 10% reduction in costs. Health Care Access Fund: Preserved HCAF funding for health care initiatives. Governor's proposal to use $250 million of HCAF money for non-health care related spending rejected. $50 million was transferred to the general fund, but must be paid back from the savings generated by the health care reform initiative. Nursing homes: 2% COLA. Small employer health plans: Health plans selling small employer group coverage must provide information to small employers about the availability of no-mandate plans, known as "flexible benefit plans." Physical therapy: Eased legal barriers to allow more direct access to physical therapists, thereby reducing health care costs. Oral health practitioners: Laid the groundwork to increase access to dental services to thousands of Minnesotans statewide by authorizing qualified persons to practice as an "oral health practitioner." This summer a special task force will develop the precise educational requirements and scope of practice for these new advanced dental hygiene providers. No oral health practitioner will be authorized to practice prior to January 1, 2011. Naturopathic medicine*: A registration system for "doctors of naturopathic medicine" was enacted. Doula: Vetoed—an expansion of the Health Care Bill of Rights to make clear that every patient receiving maternity care has the right to continuous support from a doula of her choice, in addition to her family, during her stay in the hospital, so long as the doula performs doula services within an accepted scope of practice and the hospital's standard of care. Stem cell research*: The University of Minnesota authorized to spend state-appropriated funds on stem-cell research. Human cloning*: Prohibited. Made a felony. Blood donation I: People who are 16 years of age may now donate blood provided they have written permission from their parent or guardian. Blood donation II: A state employee must be granted paid leave from work to donate blood at a location away from the place of work. Volunteer Health Care Program*: Funding provided to pay the medical malpractice insurance for retired doctors, physicians assistants, nurses, and dentists and dental hygienists who serve low-income patients. Worker lung health: The U of M will conduct a comprehensive study of workers' lung health to learn, among other things, what has caused the deaths of 58 Minnesota miners and impaired the health of others. The study will look for the causes of mesothelioma, a rare fatal form of cancer. Medicinal marijuana: Use of marijuana for medical purposes was not legalized. Gestational Carrier Arrangements: Vetoed—legislation to establish standards and procedural requirements governing surrogacy arrangements, which are currently unregulated. Newborn screening: Vetoed—modifications to the existing newborn screening law, which provides for the testing of infants for heritable and congenital disorders did not become law. Fetal remains: Hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities must adopt a policy for informing a woman of available options for fetal disposition when the woman experiences a miscarriage or is expected to experience a miscarriage. Freedom to Breath Act: No modifications made to the smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in indoor places of employment including bars, restaurants, and public transportation. Outdoor "smoking shacks" not authorized. Nonsmoking hotel rooms*: A person who smokes in a hotel room designated as ―non-smoking‖ can be required to reimburse the innkeeper for the actual cost to restore the room to its pre- violation condition, plus an additional service charge of $30. Ambulance chasing: Health care providers prohibited from contacting in person, over the telephone, or by electronic means people who have been injured in a car accident for the purpose of encouraging them to be treated by the provider Medical credit scores: Vetoed—legislation prohibiting health care providers from obtaining or using information from any entity, such as a credit reporting agency, that gathers, maintains, evaluates, or distributes individual patient financial or debt information until after the health care provider has provided the requested health care services to the patient. The goal of this legislation was to ensure that medical debt information does not impact a person's ability to receive care or treatment decisions. A credit-reporting agency is currently developing a service that would provide information to health care providers on the credit history of prospective patients. The service would be similar to a "credit score" currently used by businesses to gauge credit worthiness. Homelessness/Food shelf programs: Additional resources to combat long-term homelessness, and to support Minnesota's food shelves. CAPITAL INVESTMENT/JOBS JOBZ: New accountability requirements imposed, but no elimination of the program. JOBS: $821 million in bonding was enacted into law that will help "jump-start" Minnesota's ailing economy by providing thousands of good paying jobs while at the same time meeting important public safety, educational, environmental, health, human service, and other needs. Biomedical science research facilities: Financial assistance for a biomedical science/biomedical technology laboratory and research facility located on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The purpose of the assistance is to further the investment in biomedical science research facilities in Minnesota to benefit the state's economy, advance the biomedical technology industry, benefit human health, and facilitate research collaboration between the University of Minnesota and other private and public institutions. It will expand upon Minnesota's existing academic and economic advantages in this high-tech arena. The biosciences facilities will be home to 4,800 new jobs and will also help build Minnesota's next generation of high- tech companies and careers. Higher Education: Statewide investments in new classrooms and labs, and additions and renovations of existing higher education facilities to meet the growing needs of students, faculty, and staff. Public safety training facilities: A homeland security and emergency management training center will be constructed at Camp Ripley to train personnel from across the state in disaster response that cannot be taught at the regional or local level due to the need for specialized and expensive equipment. An important regional facility will be built in southeastern Minnesota that will have, among other things, a live burn training simulator, a driving range, and a weapons training facility. Other investments were made to assist in the predesign and equipping of other public safety/emergency training facilities in other parts of the state. Crime labs: Funding provided for a forensic crime lab to facilitate the processing of evidence. In addition, the commissioner of public safety will develop a long-term strategic plan that will assess the state's need for any additional regional or local crime labs. If new crime labs are needed, the commissioner will rank in order of urgency the regions, counties, or cities that are in need of such a facility. Faribault Correctional Facility: Expansion and improvements to enhance security and safety of the public and staff. Asset preservation: Significant investments made all across Minnesota in "asset preservation," which involves the basic repair and renewal of state buildings to ensure they are safe, accessible, and functional. Asset preservation includes such things as roof, window and door replacement; mitigating safety hazards; code compliance projects; elevator repair; abatement of hazardous materials; mechanical and utility repairs/upgrades; sewer repairs etc. One goal of asset preservation is to reduce long-term facility costs by attending to immediate maintenance needs (i.e. replace an aging roof before it begins leaking and water damages the interior of the building). Clean water/waste water infrastructure: Significant investments made in various clean water initiatives, including low interest loans for municipal waste water/storm water/drinking water projects; and low interest loans to small communities to replace failing septic systems. The goal of initiates such as these is to restore impaired waters throughout the state. DNR Natural Resources/Environment: Maintenance and improvements at state parks, investments in healthy living through expansion of state recreational trails, flood mitigation, wetland preservation. Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind: Several improvements will be made to facilities on the campuses of the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind, including preliminary work for a new Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children's Regional Treatment Center (DHHCRTC). DHHCRTC will provide a secure facility for deaf children with mental health problems. No such facility currently exists in Minnesota. Children in need of such services must be placed out-of-state or in inappropriate Minnesota facilities that are incapable of meeting their needs due to their unique communication barriers. Homelessness: Assistance for emergency shelters, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing for families with children and individuals who experience long-term homelessness or are at risk of becoming long-term homeless—people who often suffer from serious and persistent mental illness, chronic health problems, disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts). Permanent supportive housing programs will provide or coordinate with other services necessary for residents to maintain housing stability and maximize opportunities for education and employment. Library accessibility and improvement grants: Funding for competitive grants for library accessibility, expansion, renovation, and construction projects. These grants will allow regional and local libraries to renovate deficient facilities in order to better serve the public. Remembering with dignity: Deceased residents of state hospitals or regional treatment centers buried in unmarked graves will receive a grave marker. PUBLIC SAFETY Disarming a peace officer: Whoever intentionally takes possession of a defensive device (gun, mace, baton, taser, etc.) being carried by a peace officer, or from the area within the officer's immediate control, while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties and without the officer's consent, is guilty of a felony. False emergency calls: The crime of making a false emergency medical or ambulance call expanded to include making a false emergency police or fire call. Public nuisance: Expanded what qualifies as a public nuisance in order to keep our communities safe and livable. "Critical public service property" trespassing: The "critical public service" trespass statute was expanded to include underground structures that contain a utility line or pipeline. Among other things, this expansion will help combat the increase in cooper thefts from utilities. Orders for protection: Orders for protection can now be issued for up to two years, an increase of one year. Also, in egregious cases orders for protection can be granted for up to 50 years. The increased time periods reduce the number of contacts between victims and their abusers. Safe at Home: People who need to keep their home addresses private, such as stalking victims, can now use an alternative designated address on their Minnesota driver’s license or state ID card. Domestic abuse advocates: Domestic abuse advocates can't be compelled to disclose in court any opinion or information received from or about the victim without the consent of the victim unless ordered by the court. Dangerous dogs: Tighter restrictions on dangerous dog ownership, including an increase in the amount of insurance an owner of a dangerous dog must carry. Dog ownership prohibited for a minimum of three years for persons whose dangerous dogs kill or seriously hurt someone, or who repeatedly fail to comply with the dangerous dog statutes, including registering their pet, keeping it properly confined, and other safety requirements. No specific breeds of dogs are banned. Animal fighting*: Increased from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor the penalty for attending or purchasing tickets to a dogfight, cockfight or other animal fight. Emergency preparedness: The Emergency Management Division directed to maintain an emergency management training curriculum. The division must make emergency management training courses in this curriculum available to state employees whose essential job duties involve emergency management. Each state agency with a key role in disaster or emergency response must have at least one employee who has completed the entire emergency management training curriculum. The Dept. of Transportation's director of emergency management and her staff had not completed such training at the time of the 35W bridge collapse. Natural disasters: Established a framework for legislative and executive branch responses to disasters that result in a presidential disaster declaration. The goal is to facilitate a timely state response to major disasters by creating a uniform system in which the Legislature can quickly pass disaster relief appropriations, and the executive branch can quickly get relief to survivors and victims. Window glazing: Law enforcement agencies authorized to tint their squad car windows. Persons needing to tint their windows for medical reasons must have a prescription or a physician's statement of medical need. The prescription or statement must specifically state the minimum percentage that light transmittance may be reduced to satisfy the medical needs of the patient. The prescription or statement can only be valid for two years and then must be reissued. Drug laws: A working group was created to thoroughly review Minnesota's drug laws, including: (1) whether to establish additional methods to target particularly dangerous drug offenders; (2) maximizing the use of deferred prosecutions for low-level drug offenders; (3) strategies for increasing the efficacy of programs that are now available to treat drug offenders; and (4) the likely impact of any recommended change in policy upon victims of drug-related crimes, the neighborhoods in which these crimes occur, law enforcement, the courts, and others. Predatory offender registration: The registration procedure for predatory offenders strengthened. A person in prison who is scheduled to be released from the facility and who does not have a new primary address is now required to register with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the area where the person will be staying at least three days before the person is released from prison. Sex offender incarceration: Sex offenders being held for civil commitment can authorize being held in a state prison or county correctional facility instead of Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) facilities. In addition, county attorney's will be allowed to acquire information held by the Department of Corrections about an inmate in order to determine whether good cause exists to petition for a sex offender's civil commitment. No court order will be required to obtain this information. These provisions will save property taxpayers money by reducing local county expenses. Childhood sex abuse: No change in the statue of limitations for bringing a civil action for damages from childhood sex abuse. Emily's Law: Current law, which permits a child 14 or older to be tried as an adult under certain circumstances, was not modified. A proposal to lower the age to 13 was not adopted. Firearms: No modifications to the statutes governing: (1) the use of deadly-force as a means of self- defense (Castle Doctrine); (2) the transfer of pistols or semiautomatic military-style assault weapons (gun show loophole); or (3) the current authority of Minnesota's postsecondary educational institutions to establish their own policies regarding the carrying and possession of firearms by students on school property. Photo cop: The use of automated cameras to ticket red-light runners was not authorized. AG/ENVIRONMENT/ENERGY Outdoors/arts & cultural heritage constitutional amendment: Voters will be asked in the 2008 general election whether to increase the state sales tax 3/8 of 1% to fund habitat conservation; clean water initiatives; parks and trails; and arts and cultural heritage initiatives. The "Outdoor Heritage Council" was created to advise the Legislature on how best to utilize the increased habitat funding that would result from passage of the amendment. The council will also accept applications for the Conservation Partner Program, which will allow private organizations to apply for matching funds for grants, should the constitutional amendment be adopted. The council will be made up of private citizens and legislators. Lake Vermillion State Park: Funding provided for a land purchase for a new state park. Lottery proceeds*: Currently, 40% of the state's lottery proceeds is constitutional dedicated to environmental initiatives. This session the Legislature appropriated $23 million of those proceeds to: (1) land acquisition and restoration; (2) environmental education and outreach; and (3) natural resources research, including research on climate change, energy production, wildlife and habitat, and water resources. Biodiesel B-20: The biodiesel content of diesel fuel will gradually be increased from 2% to 5% on May 1, 2009; 10% on May 1, 2012; and 20% on May 1, 2015. Green Solutions Act - cap & trade: Creation of a framework to move toward enactment of a "cap and trade" program that places a limit (cap) on total greenhouse gas emissions that are allowed, and permits those emitting the gases to purchase and sell (trade) allowances to one another. The legislation builds upon the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals that were enacted last year: at least 15% below 2005 emission levels by 2015, at least 30% below 2005 emission levels by 2025, and at least 80% below 2005 emission levels by 2050. Greenhouse gas reduction: In order to ensure proper legislative oversight and the development of policies to attain the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals, the commissioners of Commerce and the Pollution Control Agency shall regularly: (1) report to the Legislature on the progress being made toward meeting those goals; and (2) propose any legislation they deem appropriate to achieve those reductions. Legislative Energy Commission: The new commission will continuously evaluate Minnesota's energy policies and the degree to which they promote an environmentally and economically sustainable energy future; and monitor the state's progress toward meeting its renewable energy goals and greenhouse gas reduction objectives. Wind energy: Program established to facilitate the development of small-scale wind energy projects. Nuclear power: The moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants was not repealed. Clean Car Act: California's emission standards were not adopted for Minnesota vehicles. Peak Oil*: A resolution memorializing the Governor to direct state agencies to assess the challenges presented by "Peak Oil." "Peak Oil" refers to the point in time when the maximum rate of global oil production is reached, after which the rate of production irreversibly declines, creating problems of scarcity and higher prices. The assessment would inventory state activities, their oil resource requirments, and the impact "Peak Oil" would have on each of those activities. Livestock investment grant program: The commissioner of agriculture may award a livestock investment grant to a person who raises livestock equal to 10% of the first $500,000 of qualifying expenditures. Bovine TB: Cattle buyouts, fencing, and livestock testing for herds infected with Tuberculosis (TB). TB, an infectious respiratory illness, poses a serious threat to the state's cattle industry. The Board of Animal Health is given more authority to fight TB. For example, it can restrict the movement of animals within and between regions of the state. Fish virus-VHS: The commissioners of agriculture, health, and natural resources will form a work group to develop a plan for detecting and responding to the presence of the fish virus Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). The Department of Natural resources given new authority to address the threat posed by VHS, which is a contagious fish virus that has affected a wide variety of species in the Great Lakes, including muskies and walleyes. Animal chiropractic: A licensed chiropractor who completes additional educational training may now engage in the practice of animal chiropractic diagnosis and treatment if registered to do so by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and a veterinarian has referred the animal to the chiropractor. Industrial hemp: Commercial industrial hemp production not authorized. Paint waste: Vetoed—a pilot program to collect and process used paint in order to reduce taxpayer costs and the environmental impacts of disposal. VETERANS SERVICES/MILITARY AFFAIRS Veterans honored: A memorial plaque may be placed in the court of honor on the Capitol grounds by Minnesota's Mexican-American veterans to recognize the valiant service of all Minnesota veterans who have honorably and bravely served in the United States armed forces, during both peacetime and war, since the founding of our nation. Vietnam Veterans Day: March 29 is designated as Vietnam Veterans Day. Korean War Armistice Day: July 27 is designated as Korean War Armistice Day. The armistice signed July 27, 1953 ended the war in Korea. Military past service tax credit: A person who has served at least 20 years in the military, or has a service-connected total and permanent disability rating of 100% is allowed a $750 tax credit for their past military service. The credit is gradually phased-out as a person's income climbs above $30,000. Training pay tax credit: Members of the Minnesota National Guard or other reserve components of the United States military granted an income tax subtraction for training pay. Out-of-state military service by National Guard. Clarified that the 2005 law that exempts from state taxation a filer’s earnings for out-of-state military service applies to National Guard personnel in the same manner that it applies to other Military Reservists. The Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act: Conformed to this federal law, which allows military personnel to count tax-exempt combat pay as earned income for the purpose of qualifying to make tax-deductible contributions to individual retirement accounts. Military Service Combat Zone Tax Credit I: Doubling of the credit from $59 to $120. Military Service Combat Zone Tax Credit II: Allowed the estate or heirs of a deceased member of the military to retroactively claim the credit for combat service that occurred before January 1, 2006. Current law allows only a surviving spouse or dependent to claim the credit on behalf of individuals who died before January 1, 2006, and only if the member of the military died as a result of combat zone activity. Current law also allows for the credit to be claimed on a deceased individual’s final return for individuals who die on or after January 1, 2006. This change will allow the credit to be claimed for all combat zone service since September 11, 2001, by the estate or heirs of deceased members of the military who do not have a surviving spouse or dependent, and who died before January 1, 2006. Effective retroactively for tax years beginning after December 31, 2005. Hardship property tax special assessment deferral; military persons: Currently a county, city, or town, at its discretion may defer the payment of a special assessment for any homestead property of seniors and disabled persons that it determines causes a hardship. The authority to defer those assessments was extended to National Guard and reserve members in active service. Property tax exemption-disabled vets: Exempt from the property tax the homestead of a disabled military veteran, with the amount of exemption based on the level of disability. To qualify there would have to be a minimum military service-connected disability rating of 70%. Property tax rate reduction for VFWs, American Legions, and other service organizations: Reduced the property tax classification rate for qualifying nonprofit community service-oriented organizations, such as VFWs, American Legions, etc. Currently, these properties are taxed at the Commercial/Industrial rate. Veteran financial aid I: The spouse or dependent of a veteran who is a Minnesota resident will be considered a Minnesota resident for financial aid purposes. Veteran financial aid II: A dependent child of a public safety officer killed in the line of duty is eligible up until age 30 for special educational benefits if the child has served in the active military, reserve or National Guard unit. GI Bill: The Minnesota GI Bill Program provides postsecondary educational assistance to eligible Minnesota veterans and to the children and spouses of deceased and severely disabled Minnesota veterans. The GI Bill is used for eligible undergraduate recipients after the federal Pell Grant, state grant program, and the federal military or veterans' education benefits are applied to the student's cost of attendance. It is a "last dollar" benefit. This session the Legislature: (1) increased from $2,000 to $3,000 the amount of educational assistance that an eligible person may receive each fiscal year; (2) ensured that veterans who have received a campaign medal for service in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, or other campaign medals are eligible for GI Bill benefits, regardless of length of service; (3) expanded the list of eligible schools to include licensed or registered graduate schools that serve only graduate students; and (4) increased the "cost of attendance" multiplier from 1.1 to 1.2, which means many eligible students will receive greater financial assistance. Reservist-owned business: The business of a Minnesota resident who is serving in the National Guard or any other military reserve unit who has been ordered into active service for more than 60 days may be exempted from civil court legal proceedings for part or all of the member's active military service and for up to 60 thereafter. Business reinstatement fees: If any Minnesota business is dissolved for failure to file an annual or periodic report with the Office of the Secretary of State during a year when an individual with substantial responsibility for the operation of the business was serving in active military service, including the reserves or National Guard, the Secretary of State must waive any reinstatement fee. Veterans unemployment insurance: An employer who hires a replacement worker for a reservist called up for active duty will not have the layoff of the replacement worker count against their experience rating for Unemployment Insurance (UI) tax purposes. Military reservist economic injury loans: Interest-free loan program established for businesses that have sustained or are likely to sustain substantial economic injury due to the call-up to active service of an essential employee for at least 180 days. Dislocated Worker benefits for veterans: Veterans are eligible for Dislocated Worker benefits if they are unemployed or underemployed. Family leave: Employers may not fire or in any other way punish an employee who takes time off to attend: (1) departure or return ceremonies for deploying or returning military personnel; (2) family training or readiness events sponsored or conducted by the military; or (3) events held as part of official military reintegration programs. Employees must provide the employer reasonable notice when requesting time off. Military members/veterans in legal trouble: If a defendant is convicted of a crime and is currently serving in the military or is a veteran diagnosed with a mental illness, a court may order that the pre-sentence investigation include information from the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Minnesota Dept. of Veterans Affairs regarding treatment options available to the defendant, and consider the treatment recommendations of any diagnosing or treating mental health professionals together with the treatment options available to the defendant in imposing sentence. State soldier assistance program: $2.5 million increase in funding for the State Soldier's Assistance Program which, among other things, provides cash assistance in the form of shelter payments (rent and mortgage), utilities, health insurance, and personal needs grants to veterans who are unable to work as a result of a temporary disability. The State Soldier's Assistance Program also provides assistance with dental and optical needs for veterans and their dependents who meet strict income and asset guidelines Veterans outreach/county veterans service offices: $500,000 increase in funding for grants to counties to aid returning military personnel, veterans, and their families, including grants for enhancing benefits, programs, and services, with a priority given to programs that provide the most effective outreach to veterans; reintegrate combat veterans into society; and reduce homelessness among veterans. Veterans casework services: $500,000 appropriation for casework services for veterans. The casework services will be community-based, available statewide, and include in-home counseling. Vets' hotline: Additional resources provided for a hotline where vets can call to receive information on veterans’ benefits, healthcare, education, reintegration, crisis intervention and psychological counseling. Peer-to peer counseling: A pilot program created for peer-to-peer counseling among combat veterans. Military and overseas absentee voting: Made it faster and easier for military personnel, military families, diplomats, missionaries and other legal, eligible voters residing overseas to vote. For example, overseas absentee voters can now request a ballot be delivered to them electronically. Once delivered, the ballot must be returned in a sealed envelope (not electronically). Currently, absentee ballots must be delivered and returned by mail. Minneapolis Veterans Home: Funding provided to demolish Building #9 on the Minneapolis campus, and design, construct, and equip a new 100-bed nursing facility. Veterans Homes Strategic Planning Group: This group will conduct in-depth strategic planning for the Minnesota Veterans Home at Minneapolis, and make recommendations for the home including an assessment of the feasibility of alternative operational models at the home or at alternative or additional state veterans home locations within the seven-county metropolitan area. Delivery of veterans services: The commissioner of veterans affairs directed to seek input from a broad range of experienced nongovernmental social service and health care providers, including both secular and faith-based service organizations, regarding the feasibility of public- private collaboration in providing services to Minnesota Veterans, as a means of enabling veterans to live more independently in order to reduce the sharply increasing demand for domiciliary and skilled nursing beds in state veterans homes. The services may include home health care, psychological counseling, life-skills rehabilitation counseling, home hospice care, respite care, and other types of home-based health care necessary to enable veterans to recover from service-connected injuries, illnesses, and disabilities at home. County Veterans Services Working Group: This group will review the findings of the 2008 report of the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) on Minnesota's county veterans service offices, and make recommendations to the legislature regarding whether and how each of that report's recommendations should be implemented. The working group may also provide additional recommendations on how to enhance the current services provided by the county veteran service offices. Veterans Health Care Advisory Council: The new council will advise and make recommendations to the commissioner of veterans affairs on providing veterans with quality long-term care and the anticipated future needs of Minnesota veterans. Brevet promotions: Members or former members of the National Guard who die as a result of injuries incurred while in active service may be commissioned by brevet to the next higher grade than that held by them at the time of their death. If a service member is wounded or killed after a battlefield commission has been approved and was pending, or if a service member was enrolled in an officer commissioning program at the time of injury or death, the person may be brevetted at the rank of second lieutenant or ensign, as appropriate, following separation or discharge from military service. State veterans' cemeteries: Additional state veterans' cemeteries authorized. MISCELLANEOUS Government streamlining: Abolishment of the Department of Employee Relations completed. Pool safety regulations: Increased safety regulations for public pool drains, such as daily inspection of pool drains and covers, multiple suction outlets, and closure of a public pool immediately when a drain outlet cover or grate is missing, broken or loose. The regulations are aimed at improving public pool safety standards following the death of a 6-year-old Minnesota girl at a wading pool in June 2007. She sat down on the pool drain and the suction created a severe injury that lead to her death. Minimum wage: Vetoed—legislation to increase the minimum. Foreclosure crisis/predatory lending: The Legislature passed a package of foreclosure/predatory lending measures aimed at easing the economic fallout of foreclosure/improper lending practices on homeowners, owners of mobile homes, and renters; and strengthening the regulation of lenders and brokers. Among the measures, a requirement that a loan default notice inform the borrower that foreclosure prevention counseling services are available and that the borrowers contact information will be sent to an approved nonprofit foreclosure prevention counseling agency. Foreclosure deferment*: Eligible borrowers who have either a subprime loan or a loan with negative amortization will have the right to defer a foreclosure under certain circumstances in order to gain time to work out a new loan with their lender. Foreclosure Assistance*: Increased financial assistance to eligible individuals trying to prevent foreclosure or contract cancellation. Tenant foreclosure protection: Greater protection to tenants whose landlords are in foreclosure: Mandatory expungement of eviction actions in foreclosure cases when: (1) the foreclosure redemption period has expired and the tenant vacated the property prior to an eviction action; or (2) the tenant was a tenant during the redemption period and did not receive proper notice to vacate prior to the commencement of the eviction case. Tenants also granted the right to withhold the last month's rent in foreclosure cases. In addition, before entering into a lease, the landlord must notify the prospective tenant in writing that the landlord has received notice of a foreclosure sale. Tenant right to utility service: Expanded rights for tenants to pay for and retain utility service in certain circumstances in the event their landlord fails to make the required utility payments. The expanded protections are necessary as more landlords are losing their investment properties to foreclosure and not paying utility bills, leaving tenants with no utility service through no fault of their own. Utility disconnection: Between October 15 and April 15 a utility must provide notice to a city of disconnection of a customer's gas or electric service, if so requested by the city. This addresses the problem of vacant homes having their water pipes freeze and burst after the heat is shut off. After receiving notice of a disconnection, a city can then see to it that water service is turned off and provide extra police protection to assure these homes are not being vandalized. Cold Weather Rule: When a utility and a customer who has had service shutoff reach a payment agreement, the utility must make reasonable efforts to restore service within 24 hours during the cold weather rule period (Oct. 15- April 15). Hannah Montana ticket scooping: Computer software that enables ticket scalpers to "cut in line" and buy big blocks of tickets to popular events made illegal. Many fans of Hannah Montana could not get tickets because brokers used specialized software to buy up large blocks of tickets and resell them at higher prices. Birth certificate access: Vetoed—easier access to original birth certificates by adoptees. Good faith insurance requirement: Insurers are now statutorily required to act in good faith when settling claims. If a claim is denied, there must be a reasonable basis for doing so. Lack of a reasonable basis for a denial can result in damages and attorney's fees being awarded to policyholders; those damages and fees are capped at $250,000 and $100,000, respectively. Government handling of data: The dollar amount a person can collect who suffers damages as a result of a governmental entity willfully violating the Minnesota Data Practices Act was increased. In addition to recovering for the actual damages a person sustained, the person can now also recover "exemplary" (punitive) damages of not less than $1,000 nor more than $15,000—an increase from $100 and $10,000, respectively. In addition, the fine that a court can levy against the governmental entity for having to compel compliance with the Act was increased from $300 to $1,000. The Data Practices Act is the law that governs the handling of data by government. Privacy of social security numbers: A governmental entity can not mail an item or request that a person mail to it an item that displays a Social Security number on the outside of the item or in a manner where the Social Security number is visible without opening the item. Contact information for members of a public body: Once individuals are appointed to a public body, certain information about them will be public information, including their home address, and either a telephone number or email address where they can be reached, or both at their request. Broadband (high-speed internet) mapping: A broadband mapping project will be initiated to produce geographical information system maps, which will display the levels of broadband service by connection speed and type of technology used. The maps will be integrated with demographic information to produce a comprehensive statewide inventory and mapping of existing broadband service and capability. Level of broadband service: A state ultra high-speed broadband task force created to: (1) identify the level of broadband service, including connection speeds for sending and receiving data, that is reasonably needed by all citizens by 2015; and (2) develop a plan to achieve that goal. Voter registration: Modifications to the voter registration law were enacted to help keep the voter registration roles up-to-date. For example, under certain circumstances, voters who move from one location to another within the state will automatically be registered at their new address. Racino: No slot machines or any other expansion of gambling authorized at Canterbury racetrack. Harness track simulcasts: The harness racing track in Anoka County granted the authority to simulcast (and take bets on) all types of horse races from anywhere in the country, including Canterbury downs, not just harness races. Dine with your dog: Cities granted the authority to adopt ordinances permitting dogs to accompany customers patronizing outdoor areas of restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, etc. Real ID: Vetoed—legislation to opt-out of the federal government's Real ID requirements unless the federal government pays at least 95% of the costs of this $31 million unfunded federal mandate. Cuba: Vetoed—a resolution supporting efforts to remove all trade, financial, and travel restrictions to Cuba, and urging the President and Congress to take all necessary steps to see that this end is accomplished. Employee Free Choice Act: Vetoed—a resolution urging the President and Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would authorize the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union as the bargaining representative when a majority of employees voluntarily sign authorizations designating that union to represent them. Extended unemployment benefits: Additional unemployment insurance benefits of up to 13 weeks are available in counties with high unemployment. Employee sick leave: Vetoed—an expansion of the permitted uses of sick leave. Current law, which allows an employee to use personal sick leave for absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee's child, was not expanded to include a spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent. Payroll cards: Employers permitted to pay an employee via a "payroll card" provided the employee agrees to that method of payment. Whistleblowers*: Added protections for an employee in the executive branch of state government from being fired or disciplined for communicating information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to improving services provided by the executive branch, to: (1) a legislator or an employee in the legislative branch; or (2) an elected official in the executive branch. Campaign funds to charities: Campaign committees of candidates who are not seeking reelection are exempt from the current $100 annual limit on charitable contributions. This will allow campaign committees of candidates not seeking reelection to donate a larger amount of unused campaign funds to charities, provided they dissolve their campaign committee within one year of the contribution. Flood insurance: Insurers must provide a written notice to policyholders informing them that their homeowner's insurance policy does not cover damage caused by flooding, and that such insurance is available in communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Boxing Commission: The Boxing Commission is renamed the Combative Sports Commission and given authority over other combative sports. Lower drinking age: Not enacted. Later bar hours: For five days during the 2008 Republican National Convention, cities in the seven-county metropolitan area may, at their discretion, issue special permits to allow bars to stay open until 4:00 a.m. Cities may charge up to $2,500 for the permits. Pedal pubs: Passengers riding on a commercial "pedal pub," are exempt from the open bottle law. Pedal pubs are multi-passenger bicycles whose passengers provide pedal power to the drive train, but don't actually steer the vehicle. The commercial business provides the non-drinking driver. State building code: The state building code is now the statewide standard for residential construction. Met Council: Vetoed—staggered terms for members of the Metropolitan Council instead of the current simultaneous expiration of all terms. Joint physical custody: A study group will evaluate the impacts of establishing in law a presumption in favor of joint physical custody of children in custody disputes--similar to the joint legal presumption that exists in current law. Fireworks: No changes from current law. Toxic flame retardant ban: Vetoed—a phase-out of the use of Decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca) in many consumer goods, while permitting controlled exemptions. Deca is often used in televisions, computers, upholstered furniture, mattresses, mattress pads, and textiles. Certain chemicals used in children's products banned: Vetoed—a ban on the use of Phthalates in children's products such as baby toys, teething rings, clothes, etc. State video franchising study: A study will be conducted on the impact of requiring franchises for video service to be issued by a state agency, rather than by municipalities. Official state sport: Vetoed—legislation declaring Hockey as Minnesota's official state sport. Dependent benefits: Vetoed—Local units of government not granted the discretion to define dependents for purposes of group benefits. Como zoo: Special one-time appropriation of $200,000 for infrastructure improvements. Vikings stadium: No action. * An asterisk by an item indicates it passed the Legislature but is still subject to signature or veto by the Governor as of 5/20/08.
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"2008 Session Summary - Johnson_ Sheldon for Representative _67B_"Please download to view full document