On Friday, Minnesota will wake up not only to the year 2016, but also a stack of new laws.
Thanks to a handy list from the Minnesota House of Representatives, we know exactly which laws take effect on Jan. 1 and how they will impact us. Some of the more wide-ranging laws are broken down below. Without further ado:
Automated License Plate Readers:
Since these devices have "raised privacy issues," from now on, Minnesota law enforcement chiefs will be required to "establish and enforce a written policy governing use of the readers." This will include disciplinary guidelines for misusing them, such as unauthorized access of the data collected, the House says.
So what's the big deal?
High-tech tools of law enforcement, license plate readers use "small, high-speed cameras" to photograph potentially "thousands of plates per minute," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says. Police cars are often armed with the devices, but they can also be affixed to bridges and road signs.
According to Petoskey News, police "love" them because they can pull up vital information about a vehicle (or many in a short amount of time) quickly and efficiently.
But the ACLU says the data collected from the readers is "sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems," creating "enormous databases of innocent motorists’ location information" – often with very few guidelines protecting privacy rights.
Minnesota law enforcement agencies have until Jan. 15 to establish their policies regarding the readers.
Hospital financial assistance
Starting on New Year's Day, the state's nonprofit hospitals must provide their patients, "in plain language," a summary of any financial assistance options they have before going after them with "extraordinary" debt collection tactics. Also changing – if a hospital fails to do this, patients now have the right to take legal action against that hospital, according to the House.
Hospitals must also give patients plenty of time to apply for financial assistance for help paying off medical bills.
According to Forbes, "extraordinary" collection means selling debts to collection agencies, reporting delinquent debt to credit bureaus (which could damage credit ratings), suing patients, and other tactics.
'Intractable pain' sufferers now eligible for medical cannabis
"Intractable pain" will be added to the list of conditions qualifying for Minnesota's new medical marijuana program, despite opposition from some in the medical community. You can read more about the state's decision to add it by clicking here.
Want to register your car? Prove it's insured
Effective Jan. 1, every car and motorcycle owner wishing to register their vehicle or apply for a transfer of ownership must show proof the vehicle is covered by an insurance policy.
That includes providing the insurance company’s name, the policy number and the policy expiration date, according to the House.
The new law is an effort to reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Minnesota, MPR News notes. The station says that under current law, drivers only have to "say they had insurance" when registering a car without any actual proof.
There are also a number of smaller changes taking effect on New Year's Day.
These include a law allowing people involved in "contested case hearings" – where citizens who feel they have been "adversely impacted by a governmental action" can argue their case before an independent body – to file documents electronically with the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Another deals with the affordability of "long-term care" and how it affects disability income. Meanwhile, KSTP says families of volunteer firefighters killed in the line of duty will be eligible for health benefits; up to now, such benefits have only been offered to the families of full-time firefighters.
The stations adds this is a big change for Minnesota firefighters, the "vast majority" of whom are on-call or part-time.