Gather data on legislative immunity
State Sen. Kathy Sheran has introduced a bill to deal with the issue of legislative immunity for DWIs. According to the state constitution, legislators are immune from arrest and prosecution during the session, except in case of “treason, felony and disturbance of the peace.” That was written in the horse and buggy days, before drunken driving became the problem it is today.
Sheran’s bill would specify that drunken driving is included under “disturbance of the peace.” So any legislator pulled over for DWI would not be able to wave his legislative immunity card. This common-sense solution is being opposed, however, by legislators who aren’t convinced that there is a problem that needs correcting. The state does not collect data on how many legislators get away with DWI.
Well, fine. Let’s start collecting that information. The Legislature should be able to pass a bill that would require law enforcement to record every incident where legislative immunity was used to avoid a DWI?citation. We think the names of those legislators who get away with DWI should be publicized, but in the interest of collecting data, let’s say only the number of incidents is collected, and the grand total released at the end of the session. That way legislators could make an informed decision without having to face the public shame.
Of course, there don’t have to be a lot of incidents to make the argument for removing legislative immunity for DWI. It shouldn’t take one intoxicated legislator plowing his or her car into another to make us realize this is a necessary move. As we’ve said before, legislative immunity doesn’t protect the rest of us from being injured or killed by a drunk driver, no matter what kind of card he carries in his wallet.