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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Update from the Capitol

Friday, January 25, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

As a proud pro-life supporter, I enjoyed participating in Tuesday’s March for Life rally at the Capitol in St. Paul. The attendance was strong and it was good to see so many people come together for such a good cause.

On a separate topic, the issue of distracted driving was discussed leading into the 2019 session and now bills have been introduced, including proposals to increase the penalty for operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic device and causing a crash. It would make the distracted-driving penalty equal to current penalties for driving while impaired.

A recent article reported that “over the last five years (2013-17), distracted or inattentive driving resulted in an average of 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries each year. The Department of Traffic Safety Office estimates these numbers are underreported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor. In 2015, 74 individuals were killed on Minnesota roads due to distracted driving, while there were 95 fatalities due to drunk driving.”

Those numbers indicate this is a problem which needs to be addressed. My mission is to get a grip on distracted driving without compromising our constitutional rights regarding what constitutes probable cause for a police officer to pull over a driver.

A number of constituents have reached out to me on the subject of distracted driving. They have relayed their stories of horrible accidents and I appreciate their willingness to share. As I have noted to some of those people, good often comes from bad. They are now using their experience to advocate for solutions and I appreciate their dedication to bringing awareness to this subject.

To gain my support, any distracted-driving legislation would need to focus on accountability and mandatory sentencing when there is a loss of life or great bodily harm. Distracted driving legislation Sen. Dave Osmek and Rep. Bob Dettmer have authored features three main components: If you kill or cause great bodily harm, you will suffer the same consequences as a under the influence driver. If you were using a device that distracted you, it will be confiscated. And, when caught texting or using a device while driving, the fines are much greater and go up exponentially with each additional infraction.

The Osmek/Dettmer proposal (H.F. 104/S.F. 75) is pretty well aligned with my viewpoints. We must have strong penalties for bad choices to send a clear message. I also would like driver education to include a segment of graphic pictures showing the outcome of bad decisions – just as they do for hunter safety certificates. It has an impact on young minds.

I thank all the people who have shared their stories with me regarding how distracted driving incidents have impacted them. Now, let’s keep on working to see if we can bring some good out of this bad to reduce the number of other people who suffer similar consequences from distracted driving in the future.

On a final note, this week I joined fellow House members in co-signing a letter sent to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer urging them to work with President Trump and Congressional Republicans to secure our Southern border and end this unnecessary partial shutdown of our federal government.

A portion of the letter reads:

“You can end this shutdown tomorrow by putting forward a good-faith proposal to adequately fund a border wall and security measures on our Southern border. It should be a bipartisan priority to put an end to the flow of illegal drugs, human trafficking, and unlawful entry of individuals into our country—we urge you to reach an agreement with the President and Republicans in Congress to end the shutdown and improve the safety and security of the nation.”

Click here for the full letter.

Hope you have a good weekend and, as always, your feedback is welcome.



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