Civil law package passes the Senate

COVID-19 has changed the look of the Legislature this year, with CDC recommendations resulting in social distancing among legislators and members spending less time on the floor to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus. The Judiciary Committee has responded to this by packaging smaller, issue-related bills into omnibus bills. One of two judiciary omnibus bills the Senate took up this week focused on changes to civil law.

The bill made a series of changes to the state’s guardianship and conservatorship provisions based on recommendations from stakeholders, which included ARC MN, Legal Aid, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Minnesota Elder Justice Center, Estate and Elder Law Services – Volunteers of America, the Proof Alliance, and Lutheran Social Services. The changes aim to provide more independence and allow for more supported decision-making for those under guardianship or conservatorship.

The bill also included a provision supported by Legal Aid and the Minnesota Collectors’ Association that would make changes to the state’s wage garnishment laws. It also allows workers to preserve 40 times of either the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher, from garnishment per pay period and extends the length of time that court ordered wage garnishment can continue from 70 to 90 days.

Creditors are able to renew garnishments for a $15 fee that gets added to the debtor’s bill. The bill allows individuals to keep a little more money and extends the garnishment period an additional 20 days in order to reduce the amount of fees that end up tacked on to the debt.

Also included in the bill were changes to the uniform transfers to minors’ act and common interest ownerships.

How the Legislature is working may look different, but legislators are still hard at work passing bills that will improve the lives of all Minnesotans. These changes to civil laws will make a big difference for those affected.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and will next work its way to the House floor. (SF 3357)