When the political class is above the law

  • 20 July 2018
  • NormanL

You've probably suspected politicians and others affiliated with government sometimes get the equivalent of "get out of jail free" cards from time to time. It's true -- they do. And it's infuriating:

For aww-shucks acknowledgment of abuse of power, it's hard to beat Arizona-style honesty. When informed by a sheriff's deputy that doing 97 miles per hour in a 55 zone was a tad excessive, state Rep. Paul Mosley (R-District 5) answered, "Well, I was doing 120 earlier...This goes 140. That's what I like about it."

Under fire from the public and the press, Rep. Mosley apologized both for speeding and for his "jokes about frequently driving over 100 miles per hour." But he drove away from that incident free as a bird, and likely faces no consequences more perilous than what the voters can muster up at the ballot box. As he explained to the deputy, he enjoys "legislative immunity."

Lots of government officials seem to enjoy immunity with a wink and a nod. But in Arizona, immunity is actually official.

"Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, and they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session," according to Arizona law.

But I'm guessing that Mosley's legislative colleagues aren't thanking him for the publicity about their sweet situation. After all, the first rule of powerful government weasel club is that you don't talk about powerful government weasel club. If you do, the peasants get all upset. And then you might lose some perks—at least on paper.

There are more examples at the link, each and every one of them is a true gem of arrogance and lawlessness.

Now there's a very good legal reason to grant lawmakers immunity during legislative sessions. It protects them from coercion, and allows for free, robust debate. But there's a huge difference between stifling representation -- a very bad thing -- and driving drunk, or blasting down the road as fast as your wheels will carry you.

That's old-fashioned, illegal behavior.

Perhaps those immunity clauses need some tweaking to make sure it applies specifically to legislative duties and the conduct of public business. And not hot rodding on the public's dime.