Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

2017 Legislative Session Review

11th-hour budget gains for legal system highlight MSBA’s year at the Capitol

The 2017 Minnesota legislative session was, to borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again. Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, entered office in 2011 and spent his first year clashing over the state budget with a GOP-controlled House and Senate. Flash forward to Election Day this year: Republicans increased their majority in the House and took over the Senate with a razor-thin one-vote advantage. The new power dynamics in St. Paul set the stage for months of budget wrangling, numerous vetoed appropriation bills, and—another flashback to 2011—a special session. This time, however, lawmakers managed to avoid a repeat of the 2011 government shutdown.

There was not a tidy ending, however. Although Gov. Dayton signed the special session tax and budget bills to avoid a shutdown, he eliminated funding for the Legislature using his line item veto authority over appropriations. Dayton said he would only call the House and Senate back for a second special session if they agreed to repeal several provisions that he found objectionable in the tax and budget bills. Republican legislative leaders, in turn, sued Dayton on constitutional grounds. At the time this issue of Bench & Bar went to press, the litigation was unresolved and there was no visible movement toward another special session.

The MSBA and Session ’17: Outcomes at a glance

Justice System Funding


Raises for judges and staff

Funding for cybersecurity, mandated services, treatment courts, two new judge units

Public Defenders:


Funding for 10 additional attorneys

Legal Aid:

4.4 percent increase over current funding level

Real Property

Technical corrections to Torrens Act

Simplification of contract-for-deed requirements

Clarifying updates to Electronic Recording Act

Business Law

Revisions to Nonprofit Corporations Act to better align it with Business Corporation Act

Probate & Trust

Eliminate annual reporting requirement for agricultural lands held in revocable trusts

Criminal Law

Updates to DWI laws

Tax Law

Prohibition on using location of taxpayer’s attorney in making residency determinations


The MSBA was once again among the most, and perhaps the most, active and productive organizations at the Capitol in 2017. The Association’s top priority this year was to ensure adequate funding for the courts, public defenders, and civil legal services. Although early proposals from the House and Senate woefully underfunded the justice system, the MSBA’s efforts helped lead to significantly improved allocations in the public safety budget bill, Ch. 95, which passed on the last day of the regular session. The judicial branch received raises for judges and staff as well as funding for cybersecurity, mandated services, treatment courts, and two new judge units. The Board of Public Defense was given funding for salary increases and 10 additional attorneys. And civil legal services received a 4.4 percent increase over their current state funding.

Although the justice system continues to have unmet needs, the MSBA was pleased to see the additional funding, which will relieve some pressure on overburdened judges, attorneys, and staff. The MSBA greatly appreciates members who made a difference by responding to the Association’s requests and urging lawmakers to adequately fund the justice system.

In addition to supporting our justice system partners, the MSBA’s affirmative agenda included numerous proposals that were signed into law, including:

Ch. 16 contains a trio of proposals from the Real Property Section that were sponsored by lawyer-legislators Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove) and Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson).

  • Technical corrections to the Torrens Act. Effective 8/1/2017
  • Eliminating the need to file a second Certificate of Real Estate Value when the payoff deed for a contract for deed is recorded. Effective 4/22/2017
  • Updates to the Electronic Recording Act to clarify and facilitate electronic recording. Effective 8/1/2017

Ch. 17 is a Business Law Section proposal that revises the Nonprofit Corporations Act (Minn. Stat. 317A) to better align it with the Business Corporation Act and make clarifying and modernizing changes. The bill authors were Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove) and fellow lawyer-legislator Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). Effective 8/1/2017  

Ch. 36 is a Probate & Trust Law Section product carried by Rep. Smith and Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) that eliminates an unnecessary annual?reporting requirement for agricultural land held in revocable trusts. Many farmers are unaware of this requirement, and their failure to comply can result in criminal penalties. Effective 8/1/2017.

Ch. 83, Article 2 provides critical updates to Minnesota’s DWI laws which were drafted by the MSBA’s Criminal Law Section in collaboration with the DWI Task Force. The changes were sponsored by Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove). Effective 7/1/2017.

Spec. Sess. Ch. 1, Art. 1, Sec. 5 prohibits the location of a taxpayer’s attorney from being used in residency determinations. The bill authors were Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes). Effective for taxable years beginning after 12/31/2016.

Other changes supported by the MSBA and its sections that were signed into law include the following:

  • Spec. Sess. Ch. 1, Art. 8, Sec. 3 extends the deadline for Tax Court post-trial motions from 15 to 30 days. Effective for petitions and appeals filed after 6/30/2017
  • Spec. Sess. Ch. 1, Art. 8, Sec. 4 removes the one-year ban on former Tax Court employees representing clients before the Tax Court and the Department of Revenue. Effective 5/31/2017
  • Ch. 95, Art. 2, Sec. 5 increases the Tax Court small claims threshold. Effective 5/31/2017
  • Ch. 95, Art. 2, Sec. 14 adds domestic strangulation to the crimes that affect custody, parenting plans, and parenting time. Effective 7/1/2017 

As always, a significant portion of the MSBA’s work at the Capitol occurred behind the scenes. Many thanks are due to the MSBA members who volunteered countless hours to prevent unintended consequences by ensuring that nearly two dozen bills put forward by other organizations were drafted in a technically sound manner. Among these were some of the new laws listed below that are of interest to attorneys. The full text of new chapters can be found at :

Ch. 10 makes?technical changes to the?MNvest?program to align with new federal regulations.?Effective 4/20/2017

Ch. 12 allows?any?vehicle owner, in joint ownership situations, to use the innocent owner defense in DWI forfeiture cases. Effective 8/1/2017

Ch. 38 modifies the MN Common Interest Ownership Act to allow?cancellation notices to be sent via electronic communication. Effective 8/1/2017

Ch. 46 limits medical assistance estate recovery to long-term care services. Effective 5/13/2017 and applies retroactively to estate claims pending on or after 7/1/2016, and to the estates of people who died on or after 7/1/2016

Ch. 60 provides?notice of the?right to?free?counsel in?juvenile proceedings for minors age 10 and over.?Effective 8/1/2017

Ch. 77 requires cities to provide notice of proposed ordinances at least 10 days before a final vote. Effective 8/1/2017

Ch. 80 modifies notice requirements for architectural barrier litigation. Effective 5/24/2017

Ch. 83, Art. 1 prohibits?location tracking through ignition interlock devices without a court order. Effective 5/24/2017

Ch. 87 modifies several aspects of construction defect litigation related to common interest communities. (Also note technical modifications contained in Ch. 99.) Effective for common interest communities created on or after 8/1/2017

Ch. 89, the higher education budget bill, allocates $50,000 for debt relief grants to attorneys providing full-time legal advice or representation to low-income clients.

Ch. 94, the jobs and economic growth bill, contains a provision that requires cities to provide notice and hold a public hearing before adopting interim ordinances related to housing proposals (Art. 11, Sec. 3). Effective for interim ordinances proposed on or after 8/1/17. It also prohibits ordinances that ban paper, plastic, or reusable merchant bags (Article 8, Sec. 14). Effective retroactively on 5/31/17

Ch. 95, the omnibus public safety bill, contains numerous policy changes.

  • Art. 2, Sec. 9 eliminates a unique income eligibility requirement for farmers seeking legal aid assistance. Effective 7/1/2017 
  • Art. 2, Sec. 10 makes referee orders in civil commitment and probate proceedings directly appealable to the Court of Appeals. Effective 7/1/2017
  • Art. 2, Sec. 13 enables the chief justice to set transcript charges. Effective 7/1/2017  
  • Art. 2, Sec. 15 allows prosecution of false statements in court documents to occur where the statement was signed or filed. Effective 7/1/2017
  • Art. 2, Sec. 16 requires a request for a temporary restraining order hearing to be made within 20 days of when the petition for a hearing is served. Effective 7/1/2017
  • Art. 2, Sec. 18 allows peace officer body camera recordings to be used as evidence even if a transcript of the recording is not made. Effective 7/1/2017 and applies to trials and hearings beginning on or after that date
  • Art. 3, Sec. 13 expands the crime of impersonating a military officer to include impersonating any military member or military veteran. Effective 8/1/2017 and applies to crimes committed on or after that date 
  • Art. 3, Sec. 14 enhances penalties for impersonating a peace enforcement officer in certain situations. Effective 8/1/2017 and applies to crimes committed on or after that date
  • Art. 3, Sec. 15-17 establishes the crime of tampering with a public safety vehicle. Effective 8/1/2017 and applies to crimes committed on or after that date
  • Art. 3, Sec. 18 expands the trespass crime to include trespassing on a school bus. Effective 8/1/2017 and applies to crimes committed on or after that date 
  • Art. 3, Sec. 19 extends the contempt of court crime to include willful violations?of geographic restrictions. Effective 8/1/2017 and applies to crimes committed on or after that date
  • Art. 3, Sec. 20-23 allows peace officers to serve process for harassment restraining order procedures, and creates a short-form restraining order notification. Effective 7/1/2017
  • Art. 4 reduces civil filing fees from $310 to $285, marriage dissolution filing fees from $340 to $315, motion fees from $100 to $75 ($50 for child support modifications), and eliminates the harassment restraining order respondent filing fee. Effective 7/1/2017

Spec. Sess. Ch. 1, the omnibus tax bill, includes language that:

  • provides for proof of timely mailing by affidavit when no postmark is applied (Art. 8, Sec. 1). Effective May 31, 2017 and applies to notices mailed after 6/30/2017;
  • allows the Tax Court to establish electronic filing (Art. 8, Sec. 2). Effective 5/31/2017
  • raises Minnesota’s estate tax exemption to $2.1 million for 2017 (retroactive to 1/1) and an additional $300,000 each year until it hits $3 million in 2020. (Note that, at the time this was printed, Gov. Dayton hoped to get legislative leaders to repeal this change.)

The 2018 legislative session is scheduled to begin on February 20. Election year politics are sure to influence the session, especially given that the Legislature includes several potential and confirmed candidates to replace Gov. Dayton, who will be serving in his final year before retiring. The MSBA’s 2018 agenda will be set at the end of this year. The Association’s priorities are yet to be determined, but, as always, we will seek to apply the knowledge of the profession to improve Minnesota laws.

BRYAN LAKE is the MSBA’s lobbyist. He has worked with members and staff to promote and protect the MSBA’s interests at the state Capitol since 2009.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to add effective dates for Chapter 94 and to correct effective dates for certain provisions of Chapter 95. 

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