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Continued: Tevlin: Legislators fight to keep their immunity from DWIs during session

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 22, 2014 - 6:49 PM

So far, the bill has been heard in two House committees, and they are hoping to get it heard in the Senate.

But by midweek, Jones sounded exasperated as legislators and administrators put up roadblocks, insisting the students take it to more and more committees, she thinks, in order to kill it.

Some referred derisively to the bill as “your little college project,” even though the students were doing exactly what lobbyists from corporations and unions do.

“Maybe we just weren’t spending enough money,” Jones said.

“A committee administrator wanted us to prove there were incidents [of legislators evading DWIs], but we called police and they said they can’t tell us if a legislator used his immunity card,” Jones said.

Over and over, “it was politics over policy,” she said. “These are lessons you can’t get from a book.”

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said the students were “bullied and badgered” in the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. It doesn’t matter whether there’s proof that immunity has been used for drunken driving or not, he said.

“There’s no defense to be against this bill. Nobody should drive drunk. It’s a black eye to Minnesota.”

Concordia students tried to pass a similar bill two years ago, but it got lost in the stadium debate, “and they said they didn’t want it brought up in an election year,” Goinz said.

Some legislators embraced the idea and sponsored it. Others openly opposed to the drunken driving stipulation made the excuse that students were trying to change the state Constitution, which they weren’t.

“There is no reason this shouldn’t pass easily and quickly,” Baker said. “It’s sad and disheartening.”

Stay tuned. If the students’ attempt to hold lawmakers accountable to drunken driving laws fails, we will be eager to name all those who got in the way in a future column.

(Note to law enforcement: If you know of legislators using the card during traffic stops, call or write to me.)

 

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702 Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin

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