WEB EXTRA: New Minn. Laws in Effect Aug. 1
Minnesota State Capitol
Photo: KSTP File Photo
Several new laws for 2013 will go into effect Thursday, Aug. 1. Here's a glimpse at some of the new laws that might affect you:
Gay Marriage Becomes Legal in Minn.
As a crowd of thousands roared from the lawn of the Minnesota State Capitol, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill earlier this spring that makes gay marriage legal here come Aug. 1.
Dayton's signature on the bill ended an intense two years for gay marriage supporters and opponents in Minnesota, which swung from a failed push to constitutionally ban same-sex weddings into a successful bid to become one of the latest states to affirm them.
In 1997, the legislature passed the "Defense of Marriage Act," which restricted marriage to only opposite-sex couples. A year later, a bill was introduced to repeal it and allow gay marriage.
It took 16 years to get to this week, which comes two years after the 2011 legislature put an amendment on the statewide ballot asking voters to cement the existing gay marriage ban in the state constitution. Minnesota became the first state to reject such a ban after more than 30 states passed one and is now the first state in the Midwest to approve gay marriage by a legislative vote.
New Minn. Law Cracks Down on Prank 911 Calls
Pranksters who dial 911 without a real emergency to report face stiffer penalties under a Minnesota law hitting the books this week.
The law effective Thursday targets those who report a fictitious emergency to 911 dispatchers with the intent of luring authorities somewhere. If the phony call results in a serious injury, it could mean felony charges.
Anyone who makes a 911 call if there's no emergency could be charged with a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor for repeat offenses. It covers phone calls and text messages.
State legislatures and city councils across the nation have started to crack down on the prank phone calls. The pranks are known in some circles as "swatting" calls because police SWAT teams are sometimes dispatched to deal with the situations described by callers.
New Minn. Law Ups Penalty for Bus Driver Assaults
A new Minnesota law will heighten criminal penalties for assaulting bus or light rail drivers.
The new law takes effect Thursday. It adds public transit operators to a list of occupations and individuals protected under the state's fourth-degree assault statute.
That means anyone who assaults a transit driver or throws bodily fluids on them while they are operating their vehicle is subject to a gross misdemeanor.
Supporters of the law changes told legislators last spring that too many bus drivers are subject to harassment that can include being spit on or even assaulted. Concern was also expressed that assaults on drivers pose safety risks for transit riders as well.
New Law Means New Penalties for Minn. Arsonists
Costly-to-fight wildfires that are intentionally set in Minnesota will soon carry tougher penalties under a new law.
The enhanced arson law was passed in May and goes live on Thursday. It builds off an existing wildfire arson law.
Now, a fire that does damage or poses a threat to five or more buildings, burns 500 acres or more or does significant crop damage can result in a felony charge. It would carry up to 10 years in prison and the potential for a $15,000 fine.
The punishment gets more severe if the number of affected properties climbs above 100 buildings or dwellings or if a fire causes bodily harm.
People convicted under the law could also be subject to greater restitution costs than they were under a prior statute.
Minn. Law Raises Consequence in Prostitution Crime
Getting caught engaging in prostitution or soliciting sex for pay will come with a higher cost to Minnesota offenders.
A new state law permits authorities to forfeit the cash that was used in or intended for the sex solicitation. It applies to prostitutes, patrons or pimps. The law goes on the books on Thursday.
The forfeiture is in addition to other penalties offenders can face, either monetary or time behind bars.
The seized money would be split among local and state law enforcement agencies. Some would go into a fund that pays for crime victim services, including those geared toward sexually exploited youth.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.