ST. PAUL, Minn. – A bill that is designed to prevent legislators from getting immunity if they are pulled over for a DWI during a legislative session has stalled in the Senate.
The provision in the state constitution dates back more than 150 years. It was designed to protect legislators from being detained and unable then to vote on bills.
The current law grants lawmakers immunity except in cases of "treason, felony, and breach of the peace."
"This is what's right. No one should be above the law," said Hope Baker, a college student at Concordia University in St. Paul who is pushing for the change.
Baker and her fellow have want the provision scrubbed in the constitution that many interpret it gives lawmakers a pass if they're pulled over for drunken driving during a legislative session.
They don't understand why the senate judiciary committee has all but killed the bill by tabling the issue Thursday and not moving it out of committee Friday night, which was the deadline in order to get it to the Senate floor for a vote.
There could be some procedural maneuvering to allow that still to happen, but it is much more difficult.
"Everyone else on the outside thinks this is a no-brainer," said Baker.
But according to Senator Ron Latz, the chairmen of senate judiciary committee, those who think it is a "no-brainer" have been misinformed.
"As a legal issue it is not an issue. It may be an educational matter for law enforcement and legislators," said Latz.
He believes change is not needed because he contends legislator immunity does not apply to breaking the law, it only refers to someone trying to prevent a legislator from voting if detained in a "civil matter".
That's why he and others voted to table the issue, he told KARE 11.
"If you ask any of us in the legislature, 'are we above the law?' We should not be. If we make criminal offenses we should be arrested and held accountable as any other citizen out to be," he said.
But Representative Ryan Winkler, who is for the change in the law, said it's not that easy. He believes law enforcement maybe hesitant to arrest a legislator while the session is underway.
"Really the fact of the matter is law enforcement can be charged with a gross misdemeanor if they willfully interfere with a legislator trying to go along with their legislative business," he said.
Meanwhile, he expects a vote in the house in the next week or so. And he hopes it puts pressure on the senate to do the same.
"For me, it's an opportunity to say the legislature plays by the same rules," he said.