Minnesota has the nation’s first law requiring smartphones and tablets sold in the state to have remote shut-off devices as a way to deter theft. The “Kill Switch” bill was signed Wednesday by Governor Dayton after lawmakers passed it last week. The measure takes full effect in 2015, but advocates are hoping the wireless industry will make the technology updates sooner. Supporters describe the law as “a vaccine” for the epidemic of smartphone theft and increasingly violent robberies tied to mobile devices. People who report a kill switch-equipped phone lost or stolen can disable it and wipe it’s data by contacting their carrier. The bill also bars retailers from paying cash for used devices and requires them to keep records on those transactions.
Minnesota is poised to begin requiring fingerprint background checks for state workers who care for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups. The legislation that requires those employees be fingerprinted and photographed would start in October. The Department of Human Services has conducted criminal background checks on most groups of caregivers since 1991, but the fingerprinting effort is the largest expansion of state screening in more than two decades. In some cases, licensed nurses in Minnesota can practice for years despite histories of criminal convictions, including drug thefts. Human Services now conducts background checks only when caregivers are hired or switch jobs, which means crimes can go undetected so long as a caregiver sticks to one employer.