Here are some Minnesota laws that came into effect Jan. 1

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If you have some spare time this weekend, you could brush up on some of Minnesota's new laws that became active on January 1.

The Pioneer Press notes that lawmakers sometimes wait until the start of the new year to enact certain laws, while others go into effect the moment they are approved.

Here are a few of the pertinent ones that became active on Friday:

Registration = car insurance

If you want to register a vehicle in Minnesota, from now on you need to prove you have insurance first. The Pioneer Press notes this is designed to rid the state of uninsured drivers.

Savings account prize draws

WCCO reports that a new law affecting personal banking came into force Friday, which authorizes credit unions to use "raffles" as a way of promoting saving.

Around a dozen credit unions in the state are launching a "Wincentive Savings" program, entering people automatically into cash draws with prizes of up to $5,000.

Intractable pain added to medical pot list

Following a decision made by the state's health commissioner last month, people who suffer from chronic pain who have exhausted every other avenue of medical treatment with no success can now get medical marijuana under the state's program.

The Star Tribune notes the law will see the commissioner report findings to the Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research by the end of the year.

Benefits help for firefighters

Also according to WCCO, a new law for the fire service will see health benefits extended for the families of volunteer firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.

The law provides some recognition of the fact the majority of the state's firefighters are not full-time staff.

License plate reader rules

The Associated Press reports any police department or law enforcement agency that wishes to use automatic license plate reading technology need to lay out their own policies for maintaining scans and punishing officers who improperly access them.

If they don't come forward with a policy by Jan. 15, they can't use them.

Income tax changes

The Pioneer Press notes that wealthier people can earn a few dollars more before the higher tax rate kicks in, thanks to the threshold rising with inflation.

The changes, however, are small and the savings minimal. For example, the newspaper notes Minnesota's 7.05 percent rate will now kick in for married filing jointly at $146,270 – just $650 more than last year.

Tighter rules for hospitals on financial aid

MPR reports nonprofit hospitals must now make it clearer what their financial assistance programs entail for patients, to stop them being hit with unexpected bill demands.

The law will allow patients to bring actions against a hospital if it does not provide a "plain-language summary" of its financial assistance policy. If they win, their legal fees are paid for them.

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