MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students at Concordia University are attempting something not a lot of college students try to do. They’re going to the Minnesota Legislature to get some laws changed, including one controversial loophole for the lawmakers themselves.
And it all started a few years ago when Concordia students were outraged about something they saw on WCCO-TV, and got the law changed.
Now, they’re tackling more, including a loophole that could allow lawmakers to drive drunk.
Lawmakers can, and do, get arrested for drunk driving when the legislature is not in session. But once the gavel goes down, they are immune from most arrests, including DWI.
These students want to take that away.
“Let’s stand together and make sure that legislative immunity is not used to protect drunken lawmakers,” said Amal Younis, a senior at Concordia.
The Minnesota Constitution does grant legislators immunity from arrest during the session, except in cases of “treason, felony and breach of the peace.”
Article 4, Section 10 reads: Privilege from arrest.
The members of each house in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during the session of their respective houses and in going to or returning from the same. For any speech or debate in either house they shall not be questioned in any other place.
The students want drunk driving defined as “breach of the peace.”
Their professor says lawmakers tell her they joke about it.
“Everybody makes this a joke,” said Concordia University Political Science Professor Jayne Jones. “They have a get out of jail free card. It’s pretty appalling that my colleagues actually do this.”
The Concordia student bills are ambitious, but not naive.
They came close to removing legislative immunity last year, and in 2010 they got lawmakers to pass what’s called “Kyle’s Bill.”
Kyle Herman is a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome who was abused by his special education teacher for two years.
But WCCO-TV found the school never notified Herman’s parents it was investigating the teacher.
Schools must notify parents now; and Concordia students want violations like that posted permanently in a teacher’s file.
“I personally have two cousins with down syndrome,” said Margaret Kiel, a Concordia senior. “I was absolutely appalled that this was happening to a non-verbal child in a class room. Appalled.”
The students are also lobbying the 2014 legislature to tighten social media privacy laws, dental access, and school district rules for accepting out of state athlete students.