ST. PAUL — A loophole in state law that shielded Minnesotans who raped their spouses from prosecution will be closed.
Employers that withhold salaries from their employees will be subject to felony charges.
Drug companies will be asked to pay more to foot the bill for the impacts of the opioid crisis in Minnesota and the state will begin studying the causes of increased rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Minnesota lawmakers closed out the 2019 legislative session in a one-day special session last month, approving a $48-billion two-year budget, complete with new funds and policy provisions set to become the law next week. In addition to the funding boosts for Minnesota public schools, health care and community prosperity programs, legislators greenlighted more dollars for needy families, public defenders and correctional officers.
Here’s a look at some of the new laws set to take effect July 1.
Lawmakers close loophole allowing marital rape exception
Beginning July 1, Minnesota law will no longer include a so-called marital rape exception, a loophole in state law that shields those involved in voluntary relationships from prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct or rape.
The exception prevented at least one woman, Jenny Teeson, from getting a prosecution against her former husband, who drugged and raped her. She later learned of the rape through a video that her then-husband had filmed. Teeson spent months speaking to lawmakers at the Capitol in an effort to overturn the law.
Wage theft becomes a crime, state to launch investigations
Stealing an employee’s wages will become a felony in Minnesota beginning next week and state law will set in place consequences for employers that retaliate against employees that report such theft.
Those found guilty of failing to pay an employee could be subject to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine under the law. Over the next two years, the state will spend just over $2 million to prevent and investigate wage theft.
Political parties to obtain primary voter info
Minnesota voters will be able to keep their choices a secret as they cast ballots in 2020 presidential primary elections, but they will have to choose a major political party ticket. And the state’s major political parties will be able to access lists of which partisan primary voters opted for.
The change is a departure from the precinct nominating caucuses that took place in 2016.
Families on state assistance to see a boost
Minnesota families that receive cash and food assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program are set to see the first increase in assistance payments in three decades. Those on the program are set to receive $100 in additional funding each month.
Public defenders, judges get a raise, more correctional officers to be hired
Public defenders, judges and Supreme Court staff will see pay raises under the state’s new spending plan, set to take effect July 1.
Lawmakers approved a 2.5% annual salary increase for judges and staff of the Minnesota Supreme Court. And they set aside nearly $11.93 million to go toward salary increases for public defenders and staff as well as another $6 million to pay new attorneys and support staff.
The Legislature also approved funding to hire another 78 correctional officers to work in the state’s prisons.
State to study violence against Indigenous women, girls
The state will work to determine why so many Indigenous women and girls face disproportionately larger amounts of violence than other groups under a law state to take effect July 1.
As part of a larger piece of legislation passed into law, tribal leaders along with law enforcement officials, advocates and health experts will form a task force on missing and murdered Indigenous women. Lawmakers approved $150,000 over the next two years to study the violence, determined the best ways to collect data about its prevalence and bring about measures to reduce the abduction and killing of Indigenous women and girls.
The panel is required to meet before Oct. 1 of this year and submit its findings to lawmakers by Dec. 15, 2020.
Drug companies to pay for opioid crisis response
Drug distributors and manufacturers will be required to help pay for the aftermath of the opioid epidemic in Minnesota after lawmakers passed and Walz signed into law a sweeping package of legislation.
Under the new law, opioid distributors will be required to pay fees expected to total more than $20 million. Those funds will be used to provide education and prevention programs as well as treatment programs. The law would also limit, in some cases, the number of opioid painkillers that could be prescribed for acute pain to a seven-day supply for adults and a five-day supply for minors.
The state has sued the drugmakers and if it receives a settlement, that could offset the fees, but not until $250 million has been generated and not before 2024. The plan would also boost funding to social service agencies that have borne the cost of out-of-home placement of children whose parents became addicted to opioids and would establish an advisory council to provide further guidance on the issue.