The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 1, 2012

New Year brings new laws

MANKATO — If you want to purchase an incandescent light bulb or a smoke a cigarette on the Minnesota State University campus — too bad.

The new year has arrived, and so have a handful of new laws that took effect Sunday.

At MSU, the campus became entirely smoke-free. MSU officials said the new policy represents the next step in what has been a long battle with careless smokers who litter their cigarette butts and ignore the previous policy of smoking only in the campus’ 28 designated areas.

The ban applies to students as well as staff and extends to university-owned or -leased vehicles. Signage will be displayed around campus alerting visitors to the new policy, though disciplinary procedures are not expected to be particularly formal.

“Our advice (will be) to politely point out that the campus is smoke-free,” said Michael Cooper, an MSU spokesperson.

Federal legislation concerning light bulbs also took effect on Sunday — although enforcement of the changes has been delayed until Sept. 2012.

The law requires that light bulbs be more efficient. Thus, companies are no longer making the outdated, 100-watt incandescent bulbs. Retailers and hardware stores, however, may still have some on the shelves until their inventory runs out.

At Ace Hardware in Mankato, store manager Scott Skutnick said consumers can turn to compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs. They are more efficient and last longer, he said, and many come with five-year guarantees.

“We’re trying to sell out our incandescents,” Skutnick said, “and start promoting the CFLs.”

State-level laws that took effect on Sunday include:

n Modernization of insurance claims: Since consumer insurance statutes written decades ago didn’t include insurance for products not yet invented — particularly portable electronics, such as cell phones.

The revised statutes are intended to clarify that retailers who sell electronics insurance don’t have to serve as insurance companies themselves. The statutes also mandate that retailers disclose insurance information to customers and train employees on insurance terms and conditions.

At R-U Wireless in Mankato, managers said there will likely be little change for consumers. When purchasing a cell phone, consumers will still have the opportunity to purchase insurance that goes beyond the manufacturer’s warranty.

n Nursing home reimbursement rates: The law establishes new reimbursement rates for nursing homes, as well as clarifies licensing requirements for body art technicians and allows counties to contract with detoxification facilities in bordering states.

n Donor awareness donation: In addition to being asked to be an organ donor, driver’s license applicants will also be asked to contribute $2 to a donor awareness campaign. The same question will be posed when registering and transferring titles on motor vehicles.

n Carbon monoxide awareness: Dubbed “Tyler’s Law” after the Minnesota student who died while installing stereo speakers on a running vehicle in an open garage, the law mandates that those being tested for a driver’s license are also tested on their knowledge of carbon monoxide.

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