As Rachel E. Stassen-Berger reports for the Star Tribune, a group of college
students in Minnesota have proposed a bill – which now has some
support in the legislature in that state – that would eliminate
legislative immunity for lawmakers accused of
drunk driving while the legislature is in session.
Many states have had a history of some form of legislative immunity, including
Maryland. Legislative immunity started in the “struggles between
the English Crown and Parliament,” wrote the author of a legal treatise
on immunity, where in one case a king passed a death sentence on a lawmaker
for his bringing a bill to lower how much the royal household spent.
Legislators have been known to joke about “free passes,” but
in some places arrested legislators have actually demanded their free
pass. In Arizona, for example, just last year one lawmaker demanded that
the cops take off his cuffs after he got arrested for a domestic violence
incident, and in Georgia one lawmaker was arrested for DWI but tried get
his free pass by citing his legislative immunity.
One Minnesota state legislator, referring to the college students’
bill, said, “I don’t think any political person is above the
law when it comes to breaking the law. I can’t think of one legislator
that wouldn’t be willing to vote for this.”