The Minnesota Secretary of State announced Wednesday it would no longer issue legislative privilege cards that some believed gave lawmakers immunity from being arrested for DWI during a legislative session.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said, "The public should not be confused into thinking that anyone, especially elected officials, are above the law in Minnesota. ... We are discontinuing the cards given the lack of a statutory requirement for our office to issue them."
The cards were highlighted during debate over legislative immunity this session after being brought to light by Concordia University students who were concerned the cards would increase drunken driving.
The House ended up passing a bill that would eliminate lawmaker immunity for DWIs and other crimes during the legislative session, but it stalled in the Senate. Opponents said the immunity law is a misconception and the cards don't actually prevent lawmakers from getting arrested.
The immunity law, which dates back to 1857, was put into place to prevent dirty tricks by politicians – political opponents would get other lawmakers arrested so they couldn't vote on a bill, the St. Cloud Times says.
Although the Legislature didn't pass a bill that would permanently eliminate any questions about lawmaker immunity during this year's session, Ritchie says the effort raised awareness of the issue and lawmakers can work toward a resolution during the next session.