What once were bills now are law
By Torrey Westrom
Summer is in full-swing and those hot-button issues that held our attention during the 2007 Legislative Session, just months ago, seem like old news.
We often forget that these summer months are when those bills passed and signed by the governor not that long ago become more than just conversations by the watercooler or a news headline. Over July and August, those bills are enacted to become the laws that govern our society and touch our lives every day.
Generally, finance bills take effect July 1 and policy bills take effect Aug. 1, or later. July 1 new laws that fund all areas of state government -- our omnibus finance proposals -- became official.
Over the next two years, the funding provided in these bills can give you an idea of what our tax dollars will be spent on.
Highlights here include $30 million for continued ethanol producer payments; $104 million for the Department of Agriculture; and $811,000 to help eradicate bovine tuberculosis from Minnesota cattle herds.
E-12 Education will receive a $13.7 billion funding increase over the next two years. However, because of the Senate Majority's insistence, and to my dismay, local schools will only receive a two percent and one percent increase on the general basic formula over that span. About $1.6 billion is dedicated to statewide special education initiatives, another area where schools received a boost this year.
Nearly $416 million is allocated for jobs and economic development programs over the biennium. This includes $59 million for job training initiatives.
$444 million will be used to clean up Minnesota's lakes and rivers, and protect its habitat and wildlife. This includes funding for the Clean Water Legacy Act as well as funding for state parks and trails.
Nearly $662 million will be used to fund state agencies. This includes one-time money to address technology needs.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Minnesota will spend $11.4 billion on health and welfare programs in the next two years, yet our nursing homes will only receive a two percent funding increase over the next two years.
$3.17 billion will fund the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and University systems during the upcoming biennium. Nearly $59 million in new funding is included for student financial aid, and $12 million is now available as part of the new Minnesota GI Bill.
More than $2 billion is dedicated in the area of public safety. This includes funding for agencies like the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, and our court system.
$3.8 billion will be used for Minnesota's road and transit interests. Included is $1.1 billion for state road construction; $870 million for the county-state aid highway system; and $423 million for infrastructure operations and maintenance. The 10 cent gas tax and transportation fee increases that received plenty of publicity over the course of the 2007 session were not included in this law.
Beginning Aug. 1, a number of new policy initiatives will become law.
While the finance bills passed into law July 1 hold mandates for our taxpayers, policy laws contain mandates for society, rules for all Minnesota residents.
Ticket scalping will be legal and there will be no expiration date on gift cards.
Intentionally destroying, mutilating or injuring human burial sites or grounds is a felony offense as of Aug. 1. Gang activity will soon be considered a public nuisance, in addition to all its other potential illegalities, and can be prosecuted as such.
Any situation where a student is found to be using the Internet or a cell phone to bully or intimidate another student can be addressed by the school board.
Children separated from their genetic siblings because of their parents' rights having been terminated will have an easier time connecting with each other.
A new law requires the state to remove any holdings from accounts that directly benefit companies that are found to contribute to genocide in the Darfur of Sudan.
New rules will be adopted for radon control in new residential buildings. New standards will be adopted for caring for sexual assault victims. A new law will require insurance companies to cover hearing aid costs for all childhood hearing loss conditions.
Regulations on mortgage brokers or lenders will be toughened.
A new law will require licensed residential building contractors, manufactured home installers and roofers to have general liability insurance policy minimums. Also, when renting a vehicle, Minnesotans are now covered by their personal insurance policies.
Commissioned officers in the National Guard will qualify for reenlistment bonuses starting Aug. 1. Also, eligibility requirements for grants made through Support Our Troops license plates program will be expanded.
For a complete summary of all laws passed by the 2007 Legislature, visit House Public Information Services online at: www.house.mn/hinfo/NewLaws/NewLawsmain.asp.
District 11A Rep. Torrey Westrom can be reached at the Capitol by calling (651) 296-4929 or (800) 711-2620, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org