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New state laws Jan.1: Employers, radon, junkyards and more

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A small slew of state laws take effect Jan 1.

Health Care

The biggest and best known is the expansion of Medical Assistance to cover an estimated 40,000 more low-wage workers and their families.

"Ban the Box"

The so-called "Ban-the-Box" law prohibits private employers from asking job applicants whether they have a criminal history until the get to the interview stage. The New York Times reported that Minnesota leads the nation in the effort to let offenders get to the interview stage before criminal history becomes a factor. Some employers including Minneapolis-based Target have already taken that step. Human Resource News notes the new law will not apply to employers that have a statutory duty to conduct criminal background checks.

Junker Surveillance

The Forum News Service reports another new law will require scrap yards to have video surveillance, and photograph the faces of anyone who sells a vehicle for scrap. They must also record an image of the license plate.

Notify Local Authorities

Authorities must be notified when hazardous chemicals are spilled. Sponsors said the law was needed because of cases when state officials knew about a spill, but local authorities were not notified.

Surety Bond for Estate Sales

The Minnesota House of Representatives website mentions another new law that will require operators of estate sales to guarantee $20,000 to the homeowner, with some exceptions.

Radon Awareness

Finally, the West Central Tribune reports on a new law that requires homeowners to learn about radon, a colorless, odorless carcinogen. The new law also requires homeowners to reveal if they know radon is present in a home they are selling.

BringMeTheNews reported that radon-related lung cancer is considered the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The radium gas gradually migrates through the soil and seeps into homes through floor cracks and other foundation openings in the basement, exposing occupants to the carcinogen. The EPA has set an action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Any reading above that is cause for additional testing or radon mitigation work. Radon tests can be incorporated into a home inspection.

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