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Editorial: Some laws shouldn't be necessary

Some laws just shouldn't be necessary.

Human decency should cause anyone in a position of caring for children or vulnerable adults to treat them well and to provide them with, at the very least, the basics: food, clothing, shelter and care.

Tragically, that hasn't always happened in Minnesota.

In response to a number of tragic cases of people "literally left to rot in their own filth," as a state House public information official put it last week in a news release, the Minnesota Legislature made it a felony, rather than just a gross misdemeanor, to intentionally deprive vulnerable adults.

The new law also makes it a felony to mistreat a child to the point that it results in "demonstrable bodily harm," as the new law states, meaning any harm that can be observed. That's opposed to "substantial bodily harm," which had been the threshold for a felony charge. Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Sen. Dan Sparks, both DFLers from Austin, moved to toughen the law after Mower County parents could be charged only with a gross misdemeanor for allegedly chaining their 5-year-old child to his crib every evening.

Some laws just shouldn't be necessary.

Like a measure to include female genital mutilation on Minnesota's list of "enhanced offenses," domestic violence-related wrongdoing that can contribute to harsher sentences. That's something that shouldn't be on anyone's record, even if it is a human-rights issue in parts of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. The offense was found in the record of a Hopkins, man last year after he was arrested for domestic abuse. The prosecuting attorney wasn't able to charge more than a gross misdemeanor, though -- but could now, thanks to a bill pushed by Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. Ron Latz, DFLers from St. Louis Park.

These two new laws are among a host of measures passed by the Minnesota Legislature this past session that go into effect tomorrow. The state's new law to fight the sale, use and abuse of dangerous synthetic drugs has been grabbing all the headlines. But other measures -- including ones to help service-station owners get paid after drive-off gas thefts and to broaden the list of those who legally can install sump pumps -- are worth our attention.

Some may seem benign and others irrelevant. But other laws, while seeming horribly unnecessary, sadly are not.