Target: Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee
Goal: Stop delaying a revision to law that exempts legislators from arrest for all offenses with the exception of treason, felony, and breach of the peace
Minnesota is one of 43 states with a law on the books allowing state lawmakers some kind of immunity during the legislative session. Minnesota grants its legislators an actual card at the beginning of each session that exempts them from arrest for all offenses with the exception of “treason, felony, and breach of the peace.” Recently, a group of political science students at Concordia University has criticized the law and called for its amendment, noting it was originally written in the nineteenth century to protect congressmen from detainment by political rivals but now it is tantamount to a “get out of jail free” card used to escape DUI misdemeanors without consequence. Student Hope Baker told KMSP, “We are just trying to make that illegal for everyone. That’s what the public wants. It’s safe; Minnesota needs it.”
A bill revising the previous law, clarifying that driving under the influence counts as a breach of the peace, has already passed the Minnesota House by a huge margin of 115-13. Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support for the House bill, its counterpart in the Senate is being held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Ryan Winkler, told ThinkProgress that he feels the loophole is something that the legislature should address, so that there is never any confusion about how to enforce drunk driving laws.
Sen. Scott Newman, on the other hand, who prevented the bill from reaching the floor by tabling it in the Judiciary Committee, has expressed that he feels such a law is unnecessary as Minnesota police indiscriminately arrest everyone who they catch driving under the influence. However, the fact that such a loophole still exists could prove dangerous in the future, even if it is not being exploited currently.
By signing this petition, you are calling on the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee to send the bill to the floor for a vote. You are urging them to realize that this is an easily solvable nonpartisan issue that citizens want fixed.
Dear Senate Judiciary Committee,
I am highly disappointed that you have stalled the progress of the bill to close the DUI immunity loophole in Minnesota law. Some of you may believe that such a law is extraneous, but citizens pressured for the House bill because they have real ethical concerns to raise about the modern practicality of lawmakers’ immunity. Constitutions are living documents because some principles outgrow their usefulness and need to be trimmed or revised, and legislator immunity is one of them.
I am calling on you to send SF 2073 to the floor for a vote, and to recognize that as an issue citizens care about, the DUI immunity loophole is a concern to which the Minnesota legislature should attend. I urge you to become an example for state legislatures around the country with outdated immunity laws that only provide opportunities for corruption.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons