New laws to take effect Thursday in Minnesota

Hands-free devices while driving, no groping, and no vaping become the law.

Posted: Jul 28, 2019 10:22 AM
Updated: Jul 28, 2019 11:03 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota motorists will be required to use hands-free devices if they want to talk on the phone while driving. Slower drivers must move over to let faster drivers pass. Groping a person's clothed buttocks without consent will become a crime. And vaping in public indoor spaces and workplaces will become as illegal as cigarette smoking in them.

Here's a sampling of several new laws passed during the 2019 legislative session that take effect Thursday, following a batch of other new laws that took effect July 1:

HANDS-FREE

State safety officials have been working hard to make sure that all motorists know by Thursday that they can't talk on the phone while driving unless they're using a hands-free device. They say the experience of other states shows that the crackdown on distracted driving will save lives. A first offense will cost $130 with the fine jumping over $300 for subsequent violations.

It will still be OK to operate a cellphone by voice commands or single-touch activation while driving — as long as you're not holding the phone. Built-in Bluetooth systems on newer cars solve the problem. So can Bluetooth speakers or earphones, or earbuds with a microphone as long as they're plugged into only one ear. Many retailers sell hands-free mounts. The Department of Public Safety has posted tips at HandsFreeMN.org.

Of course, the simplest, cheapest and safest solution is not to phone while driving at all. Officials point out that hands-free is not the same thing as distraction free.

MOVE OVER

Slowpoke drivers will need to stay out of the left lane. If a road has more than one lane in each direction, a driver must now get out of the leftmost lane to let faster drivers pass — assuming that's practical.

The new requirement does not apply when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, or into a private road or driveway, or preparing to leave a highway where the exit is on the left side.

Failure to get out of the way could mean a $125 fine.

NO GROPING

Intentionally touching someone's clothed buttocks with sexual or aggressive intent without their consent will now count as 5th degree criminal sexual conduct, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

The new law eliminates an exemption that was inserted into the state's criminal sexual conduct laws over 30 years ago, back when many lawmakers thought criminal penalties for groping clothed buttocks were too severe. That was long before the rise of the #MeToo movement.

NO VAPING

Minnesota's Clean Indoor Air Act will expand to cover e-cigarettes, making them subject to the same prohibitions as tobacco smoking in restaurants and bars, as well as almost all other indoor workplaces and public places.

While at least 25 counties and 31 cities across the state have already imposed such restrictions, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, the new law expands the prohibitions statewide.

Besides protecting people from secondhand nicotine vapor, which can carry other harmful chemicals, the law is also aimed at curbing the epidemic of e-cigarette use among young people.

'GRANNY CAMS'

Residents of assisted living homes and their families will now have the right to install hidden monitoring cameras for two weeks before being required to notify the facilities.

The "granny cams" provision is part of a package of safeguards for seniors and vulnerable adults. It also includes protections against retaliation against residents and employees of care facilities — and relatives of residents — who file good faith complaints about maltreatment, assert legal rights, report crimes or file lawsuits.

PARENTAL RIGHTS

Certain parents who have lost their parental rights will have a little easier time trying to get them back.

Parents who've lost their children due to "non-egregious harm," typically meaning mental illness or chemical dependency, will be allowed to directly petition a judge to have their rights restored — if they can show that they've addressed their underlying issues and gotten their lives back on track. Previously, only county attorneys could file such petitions. A child must have been in foster care at least four years before the petitions can be filed.

The change does not apply to parents who lost their rights because of physical, sexual or psychological abuse.

Sponsors said the old rules were disproportionately hard on families of color with children stuck in the foster system. The decision on whether it's in a child's best interests is still up to the judge.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604758

Reported Deaths: 7648
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1250271781
Ramsey52525898
Dakota46864471
Anoka42797458
Washington27437291
Stearns22563225
St. Louis18145314
Scott17554138
Wright16385149
Olmsted13406102
Sherburne1202895
Carver1067648
Clay826592
Rice8207110
Blue Earth762944
Crow Wing681995
Kandiyohi668485
Chisago620752
Otter Tail586484
Benton583098
Goodhue484074
Douglas475881
Mower470533
Winona461452
Itasca460263
Isanti440364
McLeod431261
Morrison424862
Beltrami408062
Nobles407850
Steele397817
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363953
Carlton353056
Freeborn347133
Pine334923
Nicollet331345
Mille Lacs311854
Brown308040
Le Sueur297426
Cass286532
Todd285733
Meeker263643
Waseca238023
Martin235333
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182846
Redwood176639
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163423
Fillmore157610
Faribault155319
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146710
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122812
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine115020
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95618
Stevens92511
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned47793
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371318

Reported Deaths: 6059
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58281641
Linn21248339
Scott20311248
Black Hawk16200312
Woodbury15240230
Johnson1462685
Dubuque13517211
Dallas1129399
Pottawattamie11233174
Story1071948
Warren584091
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554297
Sioux517774
Webster516594
Muscatine4883106
Marshall488076
Des Moines468172
Wapello4340122
Buena Vista427140
Jasper421273
Plymouth403281
Lee382557
Marion366176
Jones301157
Henry294937
Bremer288861
Carroll287052
Boone268534
Crawford268440
Benton260455
Washington257251
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232651
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212371
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198935
Page194522
Buchanan194233
Cedar192323
Hardin187444
Fayette187143
Wright186140
Hamilton182051
Harrison180073
Clayton171257
Butler166535
Madison164619
Mills163924
Floyd163542
Cherokee159438
Lyon159241
Poweshiek157136
Allamakee152952
Hancock150334
Iowa149924
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138813
Grundy137533
Emmet135741
Jefferson133435
Shelby131837
Sac130920
Union130135
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126743
Chickasaw124917
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113523
Howard105122
Montgomery103638
Clarke101124
Keokuk97032
Monroe96431
Unassigned9570
Ida91635
Adair87532
Pocahontas85822
Davis85325
Monona83631
Osceola78917
Greene78111
Lucas77923
Worth7628
Taylor66812
Fremont6279
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56418
Wayne54423
Audubon53411
Adams3454
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