Viewpoint: Constituent input prompts common-sense public safety bills
One of the most rewarding parts of serving in the Senate is helping people resolve problems. This week, I had two bipartisan-supported bills heard in the Senate Transportation and Judiciary committees. Both bills were the result of local residents coming to me with a problem and asking me to find common-sense bipartisan solutions.
The first bill came from a semi-truck driver who had to use both lanes to navigate a roundabout; his truck simply didn't fit in one lane, and he was forced to use both lanes to get through the roundabout. Roundabout lanes are not wide enough for large semi-trucks. In this instance, a car tried to pass the semi-truck while the truck driver was using both lanes to navigate the roundabout, resulting in an angry car driver. A local sheriff watched this encounter and pulled over the semi-truck driver, instructing him to use only one lane, under existing state law, while in a roundabout.
Truck drivers from around the state are experiencing problems with roundabouts. So, I proposed a simple solution — allowing vehicles exceeding 40-feet long or 10-feet wide to deviate from their lane to move through a roundabout. Semis and other large vehicles such as RVs would need to follow all other traffic laws in the roundabout, but it wouldn't be illegal to use both lanes. The bill also specifies right-of-way if two oversized vehicles are moving through a roundabout at the same time, in which case the oversized vehicle on the right must yield by reducing speed or stopping. We heard this bill in the Transportation Committee this week and it was referred for inclusion in an omnibus bill. We just don't want to punish hard-working truck drivers for trying to do their job.
The second bill came to my attention from a local conservation officer. Conservation officers are responsible for enforcing laws and regulations under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Currently, DNR officers are prohibited from writing a DWI citation if they pull someone over on a Minnesota roadway, despite being trained and able to issue citations on our waters and trails. Under current law, if a conservation officers pulls over a vehicle for an unrelated citation and finds the driver is intoxicated, they must call a local law enforcement agency or state patrol to provide the field sobriety test and issue a DWI citation.
To address this issue, I authored legislation to give DNR officers the authority to expand their ability to issue DWI citations on Minnesota roadways. Under current law, a conservation officer is considered a peace officer for DWI-related purposes only if the person in question is in off-road recreational vehicles, motorboats or hunting while impaired offenses. This change removes that restriction so a DNR officer has the same authority to issue DWI citations as do other peace officers. The bill was heard in the Judiciary Committee this week and will be included in a larger DWI bill.
In this day of division in politics, it is important to me to work with people from all walks of life to make the right things happen in politics. If you have an issue that you think I may be able to help you with, please contact me by phone at 651-296-4120 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail letters or pay me a visit in the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2233.