A couple weeks ago on this page I wrote an editorial about how important it is for the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton to find some sort of middle ground on medical marijuana. It's a juicy, two-sides-to-the-story issue - that's why I wrote the editorial - but one that, if handled the right way, would help a lot of hurting people while not turning us all into potheads.
Our politicians have their hands full on this one.
The debate reminds us that the issues and bills the Legislature deals with are all important to someone, somewhere, whether it's medical pot, Sunday liquor sales, smoking bans or pet breeder regulations. And 99 percent of the time these bills don't exactly sail through the legislative process. That's why we always hear about the 11th hour and special sessions.
But every once in a while a bill comes along that should be filed under "N" for "no-brainer," and it's these kinds of bills that lawmakers should have no problem putting their approval stamp on.
Such is the case with "Drake's Law."
The just-introduced bill is named after Drake Bigler, Brad and Heather's five-month-old son who one night in July a couple years ago went from being a happy baby with an electric smile to a little boy fighting an unwinnable fight for his life because of a drunk driver. The heart of the bill is harsher penalties for drunk driving offenders who have repeat convictions less than 10 years apart.
This is a no-brainer I don't care what side of the political aisle you reside on, legislators, let's keep politics out of this one. This is a bill that should be signed into law, like, Tuesday morning. Forget the committees, scrap the debates - this bill deserves to roll through the Capitol like words off a senator's tongue.
Think about it. Let's say, hypothetically, the laws against repeat DWI offenders had been cranked up 10 years ago like the Biglers want them to be in the future. Had they been, the drunk driver who killed Drake wouldn't have even been on the road in July 2012, he would've been serving time earned from his second driving under the influence conviction in less than 10 years in 2005.
Hypothetical, I know. But you get my point.
"You do see bills like these that are, in my opinion, a no-brainer," said Gary Dahms, a Republican senator from Redwood Falls who is carrying "Drake's Law" on the Senate side. "But I realized rather quickly when I started here four years ago that what I think is a no-brainer, somebody else might look at differently and come from a different angle. That's why we have hearings and discussion."
Yes, there's procedure to follow at the Capitol, and discussion is good, but knowing Minnesota politicians are notorious for going down to the wire every session, I think it would be wise to keep the hearings to a minimum on this one. The bill might need tweaks, but nothing should stand in the way of this happening sooner, not later. We need good things to come out of the crash. No one can bring Drake back, so the next best things are educating and preventing. The former has been taking place for a while. The latter is now up to politicians.
Dana Schoen shouldn't have been in a bar that July night in 2012, he should've been behind bars from his offense seven years earlier. He surely didn't set out to kill someone that day, but because he was so blitzed, he again made the horrible decision to get behind the wheel. His blood alcohol content that night was 0.351. That's four times the legal limit in Minnesota. You try getting to 0.351. On second thought, don't.
How Schoen was even able to walk from the bar to his truck is amazing. How he was able to get in his truck, shut the door, turn the engine over and go on his way with that much alcohol in his system plays like pure fiction.
He shouldn't have been driving. He shouldn't have been free.
There's a chance we won't see "Drake's Law" get passed this session; it's a short session, for starters, and there is plenty left to take care of, and plenty of debating, grandstanding and fingerpointing to do. How sad some of our lawmakers don't have the perspective to realize that strengthening our DWI laws for those who refuse to learn their lesson is 10 times more important than determining whether or not liquor stores can sell on Sundays.
"We need to get the bill on the table to get some good discussion," Dahms said. "Our intentions are to get that bill moved forward this year. We've very confident we can get some place with it this year. Once you get inside the Capitol walls things could change quickly. This could get right through or it could get stalled."
This is about prioritizing. It's about common sense.
What's more important to you, buying beer on a Sunday or driving on safe roads the night before?