August 1st saw many new laws take effect

When the calendar flipped from July to August, many of the laws passed during the 2013 Legislative session took effect. The law that received the most attention was marriage equality. However, many other important laws affecting our community were also enacted.

Here are some examples of laws that may not be as familiar to you.

911 Prank Calls: I was a co-author on a bill that expands the list of acts that constitute criminal conduct related to making prank calls to 911, or reports a crime that does not exist with the intent of disrupting emergency service.

Homeowner Rights: Protects homeowners from early foreclosures, keeps them informed through the foreclosure process and requires lenders to work with home owners to resolve issues before closing on their home.

Sick Benefit Change: Current law only allows sick leave when caring for a child. Eligibility will now expand to include caring for an adult child, spouse, parent, grandparent or stepparent.

Hunting and Fishing Licenses: Disabled veterans with 100% permanently disabled status will be able to get a permanent card that allows them to more easily buy a deer or small game hunting license, free of charge.

School Bus Drivers and Cell Phones: School bus drivers may not use their cell phones for personal reasons at any time while a part of traffic, stopped or driving.

Bus Rapid Transit: All counties in the seven-county metro will be able to use levy authority to develop bus rapid transit (BRT).

Good Samaritan Protections: Underage drinkers are encouraged to seek help for another person who needs medical attention by providing the caller immunity from prosecution if they initiate contact with a 911 operator to report that person is in need of medical assistance, as long as the caller remains on scene and cooperates with authorities.

Disability Parking: Increasing disability parking options and improving signage visibility requirements.

Limiting Consumer Liability: This bill prevents consumers from being forced to sign away all of their rights when they participate in activities at places of business like ski hills and water parks. Participants will still be liable for risks inherent to the activity, but cannot be held responsible for a facilities own negligence.

Consumer Protection: Provides that debt buyers should have to demonstrate basic facts about the debt (who owes it and in what amount) before they can obtain a default judgment against a debtor.

Senior Financial Protection: Alternatives to joint checking or power of attorney are provided for elderly seniors who need financial assistance. Seniors can give someone else the authority to write checks from a bank account without giving them control over large portions of their estate.

As always, I want to hear from you on this, or any other, issue. Please email me at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn, call me at 651-296-6820 or visit me at 205 Capitol, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55155.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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