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Legislators trying to kill bill that would rescind their DWI immunity, backer says

The bill's supporters say Hilstrom's words indicate one thing, her actions another.
The bill's supporters say Hilstrom's words indicate one thing, her actions another.
Rep. Debra Hilstrom

Concordia professor Jayne Jones says Rep. Debra Hilstrom, D-Brooklyn Center, is saying one thing but doing something else entirely when it comes to a bill that would strip legislators of their immunity from DWI arrests during the legislative session.

Hilstrom says she supports the bill, but has asked for it to have a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, which she chairs. That hearing, combined with the fact that Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, has also asked for the bill to come before his Civil Law Committee, means it's almost certainly dead this session, Jones says.

That's because in order to meet a deadline, the bill now needs to be approved by three House committees before the end of the week. Jones, whose government students wrote the bill and are lobbying and testifying on behalf of it, says that's logistically impossible.

THE BACKSTORY:
-- DFL Rep. Rick Hansen argues on behalf of DWI immunity for lawmakers, cites constitution
-- Push renewed to strip legislators of DWI immunity

"We're not going to make deadline, so it'll go to the House Rules Committee, but nobody ever passes through that," Jones says, alluding to the fact that the Rules Committee has the power to advance bills to the floor without them having to go through the committee process.

"It's about a one percent chance," Jones adds.

Asked why she thinks legislators like Hilstrom and Lesch would want to kill the bill, Jones says, "I have absolutely no idea."

"I wish I knew -- that would help us," she continues. "I have students who are working around the clock on this, they're passionate, and we just want to change the policy."

On Chad Hartman's WCCO radio show this afternoon, Hillstrom, who is running for secretary of state, suggested there's still a chance the bill could be approved by the House even if it misses this week's deadline.

"Committee deadlines happen but I think there's always a way to waive those deadlines, and thats through the Rules Committee," she told Hartman. "I don't think this bill would be any different than any of the others who have had that deadline waived previously."

Though she's taking an instrumental role in delaying the bill's progress, Hilstrom said she'll "be voting in favor of it."

"I believe that legislators should be treated in the same fashion as regular Minnesotans, especially when it comes to DWI."

Specifics of the DWI bill aside, Jones took particular exception to Hilstrom's comment that, "I hope [students] have talked to the members of the committee that [the bill] has to go to and I hope they've convinced them to vote yes."

(For more, click to page two.)

 

The students "are working like dogs, they've been at the Capitol daily since November," Jones says, implying it's preposterous for Hilstrom to suggest her students haven't been in touch with legislators about the bill.

"I've gone in person, emailed her, and so have my students, and they get told by her staff that they aren't her constituents," Joyce says.

Even though the bill's prospects look a lot less certain than they did a week ago, Joyce said she and her students won't stop fighting.

"We don't give up," she says. "Maybe the Rules Commitee will give us that one percent shot."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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