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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Mary Franson (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Franson

Monday, July 29, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

There has been a lot of news swirling around the Capitol in the last few weeks about disarray and drama in the Department of Human Services. DHS has been in the news all session because of the fraud found by the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor, which led to the inspector general, Carolyn Ham, being placed on leave. We recently heard that as of July 12, the investigation had not even started yet. Meanwhile, Ms. Ham had been paid $42,000 while on leave.

Around the same time, two senior DHS officials handed in their resignations, with very little warning and no explanation. Several days after that, Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned, also with no warning or explanation. When Governor Walz announced Lourey’s resignation, he also said that the investigation into Carolyn Ham had started – meaning, once they were called out publicly, they quickly began an investigation.

The day following Commissioner Lourey’s resignation, his chief of staff resigned, and then the next day, the first two senior DHS officials rescinded their resignations and were hired back to DHS.

All of this drama has been met with no explanation from the Governor or his staff. For an agency the size of DHS, which controls almost 30% of the state budget, this level of upheaval and drama with absolutely no explanation is unprecedented and unacceptable. The Governor owes the people of Minnesota an explanation as to what exactly is going on in his largest agency.

This Wednesday, August 1st, a number of new laws are set to go into effect. I wanted to take a moment to let you know about some of them.

One new law that has received a lot of attention is the “hands-free” law, described by House Public Information Services this way:

“The new law broadens the state’s existing ban on texting while driving, barring drivers from holding a cellphone or other wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion or operating as a part of traffic on a street or highway. Drivers will be required to use hands-free technology when making calls, sending messages, or accessing content — including audio and navigation software — behind the wheel.”

There are exceptions for obtaining emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

Other new laws beginning August 1st include:

  • The omnibus transportation bill included a provision requiring slow vehicles to stay on the right side of the road, and moving out of the left-most lane to allow others to pass.
  • A new law allows an officer to issue a citation to a driver if a work zone flagger has reported a traffic violation, such as speeding or violating traffic flagger directions.
  • Light rail train drivers will now be subject to reckless and careless driving laws, with penalties of a fine of up to $3,000 and imprisonment for up to one year if a violation causes great bodily harm or death.
  • The law now allows people who have successfully completed a training program to administer an Epi-Pen to someone having an allergic reaction.
  • Provider-based clinics will now need to disclose facility fees for nonemergency services before treatment – this law is intended to ensure patients are not surprised by separate charges related to the use of the facility, which result in higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • A new law prohibits retaliation against residents or employees of a nursing home or a housing with services establishment who intends to file a complaint, reports maltreatment, or participates in a legal proceeding, among other protected activities
  • Community emergency medical technicians will now be permitted to serve on a basic life support ambulance service, and services provided by community paramedics via telemedicine will now be covered under Medical Assistance
  • Applicants for permits, licenses, or other approval related to real estate development or construction may now request a non-binding estimate of the consulting fees they will be charged by a city related to their application
  • If a person fails a test to determine if they are operating a motor vehicle under the influence, their snowmobile, ATV, and motorboat operating privileges will now be revoked.

If you ever have comments, questions, or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached via phone at 651-296-3201 or by email at

It’s an honor to represent the best!