Push renewed to strip legislators of DWI immunity

legislative get out of jail free card.jpg
Yes, Minnesota legislators literally receive a "get out of jail free" card.
:::: UPDATE :::: DFL Rep. Rick Hansen argues on behalf of DWI immunity for lawmakers, cites constitution

Two years ago, a group of Concordia University students led by political science professor Jayne Jones came up just short in their push to go the legislature to approve a student-drafted bill that would strip legislators of their immunity from DWI arrests during session. Jones and company hope to go all the way this year.

SEE ALSO: Urinal Cake Man: Strangest anti-drunk driving campaign ever?

"What happened two years ago was [legislators] were so afraid there'd be stories told on the floor that could be used against them in elections," Jones told us. "We were so close and we're not going to give up."

Article IV, Section 10 of the state constitution says, "Members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same."

With regard to DWI, that currently means legislators are "privileged from arrest." But the bill pushed by Jones's Concordia students -- with help from Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, and Sen. Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato -- would change that by reclassifying drunk driving as a "breach of the peace."

The bill was approved in an 11-2 vote at the conclusion of its first committee hearing last week. Two nay votes were cast by Rep. Rick Hansen, D-South St. Paul, and the chair of the Government Operations Committee, Rep. Michael Nelson, D-Brooklyn Park.

We left voicemails and emails with both Hansen and Nelson seeking comment on the rationale for their votes but hadn't heard back as this is published.

Jones said she came up with the idea of having her students draft the bill after a chance encounter with a drunk-driving legislator at Costello's three years ago.

"I was playing cribbage with my now-husband, and a legislator was kitty-corner from us drunk as a skunk with his secretary," Jones explained. "We were talking politics, and he said something like, 'Unlike the rest of you, I can drive home drunk legally.' And his secretary was like, 'Yes, he can. It's in the constitution.'"

"He literally couldn't walk, then he got in his truck and drove away," she continued. (Jones wouldn't name the legislator, but said he's no longer in office.) "I thought to myself, you just gave me my next syllabus."

"It's a law from the 1800s," Jones said. "People are drinking just as much beer January through May as they are June through December when session isn't going on, so it's just bogus."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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22 comments
Bob DeusWatcher
Bob DeusWatcher

YES! Strip 'em! And then provide them a DEEP cavity search!

Greta von Otto
Greta von Otto

What would you expect from Mark Richie, one of Minneapolis' most Notorious Crooks?

Mel UgoFurst
Mel UgoFurst

And thus the ongoing mentality they are above the law, because, they are. The laws that they force onto us little people do not apply to them. And the whole argument they need more money to govern is ridiculous too. Legislators only 'work' a handful of weeks a year destroying our lives, and added onto their wages are daily food, travel, lodging stipends. When they start pushing for wage increases for legislators please don't let them convince you they need anything more.

josh019
josh019

Funny how the governor does not feel the need to get the opinion of the law enforcement brass on this issue!!!

Ryan Sanders
Ryan Sanders

wow, what does it say on the back of the card?

Adam Epps
Adam Epps

How are they exempt now? That's ridiculous

Diane Schuck
Diane Schuck

Drunk Drivers are Drunk Drivers. What does the MADD think???

Russ Kelm
Russ Kelm

I think ALL legislators should have to pass random drug/alcohol tests whenever they're in session. If they fail, they get fired and lose all benefits.

Matthew Gramlich
Matthew Gramlich

Pffft. What's new? That cop who took out a motorcyclist last year isn't gonna be charged with manslaughter. Financial institutions cripple the economy for profit. All checks, no balances.

Kelly McNutt
Kelly McNutt

The spirit and the letter of the law collide again. This law isn't meant for how it's being used. It is meant to keep legislators from being detained during a vote, not so they can drink as much as they want and drive.

Michael Lee Severson
Michael Lee Severson

This is gross, and these are the people passing laws for us sheeple. Everyone with a camera phone should start documenting their "legal" behaviors.

Yoom Nguyen
Yoom Nguyen

I need to apply for one those cards.

Colleen Ferguson
Colleen Ferguson

Unbelievable! They should so be expected to adhere to the same laws, if not more!

Jodi Oien
Jodi Oien

You make the rules you abide by the rules.

calistair
calistair

As Secretary of State, it is one of Mark Ritchie's duties to issue these cards. SMH

ron.fresquez
ron.fresquez topcommenter

Greta von Otto...................What would you expect from Mark Richie, one of Minneapolis' most Notorious Crooks? Really? Mark Richie is one of Minneapolis' most Notorious Crooks? You are an extremely brilliant person. I ams sure you belong to MENSA. How did you get so smart? I bet you voted for Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin. You listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News don't you. You are so smart. If only I could be as smart as you are. Oh well.     

sosmpls
sosmpls

Don't forget their new 90 million dollar Senate building they will be building in St. Paul. A monument to their superiority. LOL

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