By Don Davis
A group of university students who have found success at changing laws the past few years is preparing a new agenda for the Minnesota Legislature, everything from improving dental care for the young and old to ending the practice of high schoolers coming from other states to play sports.
The Concordia University St. Paul students also plan a second try at eliminating the right lawmakers enjoy to avoid drunken driving arrests during the legislative session, a constitutional provision popularly known as a “get out of jail free card.”
The half-dozen bills Concordia students plan to promote when legislators return to St. Paul on Feb. 25 is an expansion of one-per-session past students have tackled the past few years.
The bill that has received the most attention in the past, and is back again, would allow law enforcement officers to arrest legislators for drunken driving. A constitutional provision bans arrests of lawmakers while the Legislature is in session, other than for felonies, treason and “breach of the peace.”
The provision has been interpreted to allow legislators freedom from drunken driving arrests.
Under a bill being pushed this year by student Amal Younis, a Saudi Arabia native, drunken driving would be defined as “breach of the peace,” allowing lawmakers to be arrested.
“Let’s stand together to make sure” that legislative immunity does not let lawmakers drive drunk, Younis said Tuesday.
She said that the Constitution includes the provision to protect a legislator’s right to vote, but lawmakers should not “use legislative immunity as an excuse to drink and drive legally. … It is closing time and last call on legislator’s free ride form Minnesota’s law against impaired driving.”
The bill passed committees last year, but Concordia instructor Jayne Jones said legislators advised her to take up the issue in another year.
Hockey fan Adam Goinz is leading the charge to end what he called “residency fraud” when it comes to high school athletes.
He said that he has heard of four cases of hockey players from other states attending Minnesota high schools, often living with relatives or friends, because parents feel the student-athletes would have a better job of landing in the big leagues if playing in Minnesota.
Goinz said the law he is promoting would apply to athletes of any sport.
He complained that out-of-state athletes cost Minnesotans money and force Minnesota youths off their high school teams.
“They fake their residency,” Goinz said.
State law does allow some students in neighboring states to attend Minnesota schools, but only in limited circumstances.
Goinz suggests a two-year waiting period before a student can participate in varsity sports if the parents do not also move into the district. He also wants to require schools to investigate out-of-state transfers and place a higher penalty on violations.
Akolade Gbadamosi, a Nigeria native, said that he wants a law enacted to provide dental services to Minnesotans receiving Medicaid and Medicare.
“A person’s mouth can be a window to the rest of the body,” he said, adding that good dental care is vital.
Gbadamosi said the $500,000 a year he seeks from the state would mostly help rural Minnesotans.
Margaret Kiel is bringing back an issue to expand protections in a bill students got passed three years ago.
In 2010, Concordia students succeeded in getting lawmaker support for a bill named after kindergartener Kyle Herman, who has Down syndrome and was abused by a teacher. The law requires schools to notify parents when their son or daughter is abused in school.
Kiel wants lawmakers next year to expand the law, requiring the record of disciplinary actions against a teacher to permanently remain in a teacher’s file so potential future employers know.
Also on the Concordia students’ agenda are bills to forbid public colleges from demanding access to students’ social media accounts and a plan to increase urban science, math and engineering education.