Members of Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribes are eligible to visit any state park free of charge, under a new law that kicks in on Saturday.
In the new year, the Department of Natural resources can issue a free vehicle pass to any tribal member, which costs $35 for most residents. Tribal members must display their free park permit on a vehicle registered in their name. The DNR can also issue a free daily state park permit to a tribal member who does not own a vehicle.
Since 2013, tribal members have had free access to sacred sites within state parks, but the new law goes a step further. It’s part of a broader push from state government to repair its historically fraught relationships with the state’s sovereign tribal nations.
The provision, tucked away in a environment and natural resources budget bill passed in July, is one of dozens of new laws that go into effect on the first day of the new year.
That includes new laws that will help new mothers in the workplace, including a provision that prohibits employers for docking income for new mothers when they take breaks to pump breast milk. Minnesota will become the third state to include that protection in law.
Another new law will require most employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, which could include limits to heavy lifting, frequent restroom breaks or a temporary transfer to a less “less strenuous or hazardous position.”
The state also made substantial changes to its Minnesota’s civil asset forfeiture system, new laws that were more than two years in the making.
Starting Saturday, the state will end civil forfeitures on property worth less than $1,500, except in certain drug cases. The changes where pushed by Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha after a review by her office found that forfeitures under $1,500 made up a small fraction of local government spending on public safety services, but they could represent a significant loss for individual Minnesotans, many of whom were already struggling.
The state is also planning to collect more data and study how the proceeds from seized property are used by law enforcement organizations and local governments.
Under new laws starting Jan. 1, the state will also stop using driver’s license suspensions as the penalty for a number of different violations, including failure to pay a traffic ticket or a parking fine. The Department of Public Safety can’t suspend a person’s driver’s license based on failure to appear in court for a petty misdemeanor citation or driving after suspension.
Those changes were included in a broader transportation funding package that passed in July.