End exemption

Published 4:36 pm Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Concordia University students and professor who brought to light a previously obscure Minnesota law that would allow state legislators to drive while intoxicated without fear of arrest were correct to spotlight the issue. And the Legislature would do well to respond by repealing the law.

At issue is a long-standing Minnesota law that exempts legislators from arrest for various crimes while the Legislature is in session. The law’s intent, which is good, is to shield lawmakers from arrests that might otherwise keep them from casting a critical vote at the Capitol. For most of the crimes, the law is not a get-out-of-jail-free card; if there’s sufficient evidence for an arrest, nothing would prevent law enforcement officers from detaining a lawmaker-suspect once the legislative session adjourns. Drunk driving, however, may present a special case because the evidence is transitory, and charges could be impossible to prove even hours after the alleged incident.

That, coupled with the increasingly tough anti-DWI laws that Minnesota has enacted, suggest that it indeed makes sense to remove legislators’ DWI exemption. Besides, who wants a drunken lawmaker casting votes on important bills?

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This bill not needed

In marked contrast to the clearly correct move to end lawmakers’ DWI arrest exemption is a bill that a United States senator said may propose to bar employers from asking job-seekers for log-in information for their social media accounts. The bill, which has yet to be introduced, is a case of a solution looking for a problem.

Sure, it’s repugnant that some employers seek to have access to applicants’ social media accounts. We suspect, however, that it is a practice that will die out of its own accord. Employers who dig too much into applicants’ personal lives put themselves at risk of anti-discrimination lawsuits because they will find it very difficult to show that they did not use protected information such as race, religion and marital status in making hiring decisions.

Federal legislation is most likely not the answer to social media privacy. The federal government already has the problem covered via its anti-discrimination laws.