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Higher minimum wage, new laws begin Aug. 1 in Minnesota

The union exhibit at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair left no doubt about labor's No. 1 political goal: raising the state minimum wage. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL—Minnesota's minimum wage rises Aug. 1 and several new laws will hit the books.

The state's large employers must pay at least $9.50 an hour, while smaller businesses will be required to pay $7.75. Training and youth wages also must be at least $7.75.

In 2018, Minnesota minimum wages begin rising annually to match inflation.

Monday is the first increase in three years as part of a 2014 law Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed after a Legislature controlled by his party passed it. The minimum wage's first increase under the law was to $8 an hour in 2014.

"This year, that law takes full effect, improving the lives of more than 287,000 Minnesotans and their families," Dayton said. "All Minnesotans who work full time should earn enough to lift their families out of poverty and lead full lives."

However, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said, more work is needed to bring economic freedom to Minnesotans. "More than half of minimum-wage workers are women; raising the minimum wage improves the lives of thousands of Minnesota families."

Many Democrats say they want the wage to go up more, but that would be difficult as long as Republicans hold at least one chamber of the Legislature.

The law defines large businesses, which have to pay higher wages, as those with gross revenues of at least $500,000.

The new wages apply to all workers, full- and part-time, regardless of how many hours they work. Employers will not be allowed to reduce wages when tips are given workers.

Minnesota's Department of Labor and Industry says that workers exempt from the state minimum-wage law include babysitters and nonprofit organization volunteers.

While wages go up, several laws passed in 2016 go onto the books Monday, including provisions:

-- Changing some drug sentencing laws. Some sentences increase, while others shrink.

-- Establishing how video from police-worn cameras is handled. Most of the video will not be available to the public.

-- Requiring the state Agriculture Department compile a report on farm accidents and what programs exist to prevent them. The department also is beginning to govern a program to help farmers buy rollover bars for old tractors.

-- Banning the state from increasing the size of an elk herd unless the agriculture commissioner verifies the herd has not caused a state program to pay out more in crop and fence damages than currently being paid. The state pays farmers for damages caused by some wild animals, such as elk, and natural resource officials manage sizes of herds, in part by determining how many can be killed by hunters.

-- Eliminating a requirement that couples wait five days to get married after applying for a marriage license. As long as the couple meets other requirements, such as age, starting Monday a couple can get married right after getting a license.

-- Requiring that health care facilities' waiting rooms must provide closed captioning.

-- Increasing penalties for repeat drunken drivers whose actions kill someone.

-- Allowing pharmacies to provide 90 days of prescription drugs in many situations.

-- Making it a crime to distribute private sexual images without consent. It is known as revenge porn because often the pictures end up on pornographic Internet sites.

-- Giving local governments permission to donate unneeded equipment to nonprofit organizations.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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