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Legislators can do what now?

March 22, 2012
The Journal

Journal reporter Josh Moniz reported earlier this week on a bill making its way through the Legislature, one that would do away with legislators' right to drink and drive with impunity.

Their right to what?

Yes, according to the Minnesota constitution, legislators are protected from arrest and prosecution, while they are in session, for any wrongdoing, except for treason, felonies, or breach of the peace.

It is a protection afforded lawmakers in many constitutions, including the US Constitution, to prevent their opponents from stifling debate by threatening slander lawsuits, or having their opponents arrested for some trumped up charge just before a big vote.

We doubt that the framers of the Constitution envisioned the dangers of drinking and driving in those horse and buggy days. Legislators simply should not be allowed to operate motor vehicles while intoxicated. The danger to their constituents outweighs the danger of the legislator being unjustly jailed during the session.

The bill would redefine driving while intoxicated as a breach of the peace. We can't imagine any responsible lawmaker voting against this change.



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