Vaping ban, cell phone restrictions among laws set to take effect in Minnesota Aug. 1

Before the laws take effect Thursday, here's a look at some of the changes you can expect.

E-cigarettes are devices that typically deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives to users via an inhaled aerosol. (Forum News Service)

ST. PAUL — Vaping will soon be prohibited from public spaces like restaurants, bars and indoor workplaces.

Drivers found holding a cell phone behind the wheel could be pulled over and fined, and those found driving slowly in the left-most lane could be issued a ticket.

Employees of assisted living facilities that retaliate against residents who report abuse will be subject to penalties under state law.

Minnesota lawmakers in May closed out the 2019 legislative session in a one-day special session, approving a $48 billion two-year budget, complete with new funds and policy provisions set to become the law next week.

Here's a look at some of the new laws set to take effect Aug. 1.


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Vaping to be banned in restaurants, public spaces

Beginning next week, the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices will be banned in restaurants, bars, most workplaces and other public spaces.

Lawmakers added to the state's Clean Indoor Air Act a provision that outlaws the use of the battery-powered devices that deliver aerosolized liquid. And that means proprietors of restaurants, bars, businesses, schools and office, among other public spaces, will be required to post information noting the ban, notify those vaping that they're not allowed to do so in the area and ask them to leave if they continue.


Holding phone behind the wheel to become illegal

Beginning Aug. 1, Minnesota law enforcement officers will be able to pull over drivers who hold their phones while behind the wheel in most circumstances.

Under a new law, drivers who hold their phone behind the wheel or otherwise swipe, type, scroll or view content on their cellphones will be subject to tickets and fines. The first offense is a $50 ticket plus court fees, which could add up to around $130, and the second and later tickets are $275 plus court fees.


Law enforcement officers said the state's existing texting and driving laws were difficult to enforce and sought to toughen distracted driving laws to prevent deadly crashes.


Slow drivers in the left lane could face fines

Slower drivers occupying the left lane could also be subject to fines under a new law set to take effect next week.

Under the proposal, slow vehicles must move out of the left-most lane to allow faster vehicles to pass them or face a $50 ticket plus $75 surcharges and court fees.

Exceptions apply for emergency vehicles, those driving in lanes marked for designated types of traffic, drivers overtaking and passing another car, those preparing to make a left turn at an intersection, and those preparing to take an exit on the left.

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Getty Images / Special to The Forum
Getty Images / Special to Forum News Service


Residents in assisted living facilities protected against retaliation

Seniors and vulnerable adults will be protected against retaliation by assisted living facility employees if they report abuse or neglect under a new law set to take effect next week.

The law will allow residents or their relatives to file a good-faith complaint against facility employees, seek assistance from the facility, report abuse or neglect to officials, or place a recording device in a resident's room to record potential abuse or neglect without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

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Medical clinics required to disclose fees for treatment

Provider-based medical clinics will be required under state law to disclose to patients fees for non-emergency services before delivering treatment.

That means patients will get a better sense of how much they'll pay out of pocket before undergoing medical treatment. The clinics will be required to prominently post that additional separate charges could be assessed relating to the use of the facility.


Tougher penalties for criminal sexual conduct offenses

A slate of changes to the state's criminal sexual conduct laws is set to take effect on Aug. 1, closing loopholes that excluded certain acts from being considered criminal offenses and increasing penalties for others.

Intentionally touching a person's clothed buttocks with sexual or aggressive intent is set to become a fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge under the law. That had previously been excluded.

Maximum sentences for selling child pornography, using minors under the age of 13 in a sexual performance or pornographic work or reoffending as a repeat offender or predatory offender would be increased to 15 years in prison. The maximum sentence for possessing child pornography in which the victim is younger than 13 years old will be increased to 10 years.

Adults in a position of authority over 16- or 17-year-olds that engage in sexual relationships with the juvenile within 120 days of occupying the position of authority will be subject to criminal sexual conduct charges. The change is aimed at impacting adults who offend soon after a juvenile is no longer under their direct authority.


Operating off-road vehicles under the influence

Those who drive a snowmobile, ATV or motorboat could see their operating privileges revoked if tests by law enforcement determine they were operating under the influence of alcohol. Previously, those found to have committed off-road DWI offenses were exempt from driver's license revocation.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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