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Tougher child protection law for Minnesota ready for Dayton's signature

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The first bill tightening Minnesota's child protection laws in the wake of the death 4-year-old Eric Dean is set to be signed by Governor Mark Dayton.

The piece of legislation prioritizes child safety over keeping a family together when social workers decide whether to intervene, the Associated Press reports, and it received unanimous approval in the Minnesota Senate on Thursday.

It will also repeal a law that stops social workers from taking past reports of child abuse into account when deciding whether to investigate new ones.

It follows the horrific case of Eric Dean, the Pope County boy who died at the hands of his stepmother in February 2013. Last year, a Star Tribune investigation found that suspicions of child abuse had been reported to the county on not fewer than 15 occasions prior to his death.

Gov. Dayton appointed a task force to look into how the state's child protection system could be reformed, and this bill is expected to be the first of several changes coming as a result of the task force's suggestions.

The Star Tribune says that Dayton plans to pledge an extra $50 million to implement the changes, and more recommendations are expected next week.

"This new law will restore an important layer of protection that will help identify abuse and enhance the safety of our children," Dayton told the newspaper. "I thank the Legislature for acting quickly and unanimously on this important legislation."

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