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Secretary of state will no longer print 'immunity' cards for lawmakers

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota legislature Updated: May 21, 2014 - 2:19 PM

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Wednesday that his office will no longer print or distribute controversial “legislative immunity” cards.

“We are discontinuing the cards given the lack of a statutory requirement for our office to issue them,” Ritchie said in a statement.

The office also informed the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and law enforcement organizations that he will no longer issue the cards.

The Minnesota House this session voted to rescind the card, which states that under the Minnesota Constitution, lawmakers “in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest” while the Legislature is in session.

The move, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, was initiated as a project by a group of Concordia University students concerned that the card would extend to drunken driving. The Minnesota Senate tabled a similar measure in the Judiciary Committee.

"Secretary of State Mark Ritchie took an important step forward today," Winkler said in a statement. "Legislators, law enforcement and the public should not be confused into thinking that anyone, especially elected officials, are above the law in Minnesota. While it's unfortunate that we weren't able to pass a bill in 2014 that would permanently eliminate any questions about legislator immunity, we did raise understanding and awareness of this issue and can work toward a resolution in the next legislative session."

Last month, Attorney General Lori Swanson backed an initiative to do away with the long-standing constitutional provision, but Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, and Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, countered that education, not legislation, is key to clarifying what they say are misconceptions about the card.

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