Minnesota Seeks To Remove Legislative Immunity

| by Will Hagle

Many state constitutions include provisions granting legislators immunity from arrest. Although 43 states currently have some version of legislative immunity written into their constitutions, the interpretation of these laws can be extremely vague. 

In Minnesota, several groups are fighting against the state's legislative immunity provision, which grants lawmakers “privilege from arrest” except for treason, felony and breach of the peace throughout an entire legislative session, Think Progress reports. 

The Minnesota House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would remove this legislative immunity, passing after a 115-13 vote. The bill is currently stagnating in the Senate, which is reviewing the potential new law. 

A major concern regarding the current law is the way in which it treats the issue of drunk driving. It was brought up for consideration by a group of Concordia University political science students as well as members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

These groups have historical precedence to back their concerns, as Rep. Laura Bradford invoked legislative immunity in Colorado after being pulled over on suspicion of DWI in 2012. 

“I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen,” Bradford said after the incident occurred, according to the Denver Post. 

Minnesota Senator Scott Newman (R) believes the new Minnesota bill to be unnecessary. 

“As we’ve heard from the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you fail an impaired driving test you will be arrested. I have faith in our law enforcement to handle these situations properly. If there is evidence of abuse of power that would be curbed by passing this bill, I will gladly move to reconsider,” Newman said.

Newman has moved to table the bill, effectively halting its progress through the legislative body.