- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Safe driving advocates and Democrats are crying foul over a GOP campaign mailing that portrays Democrats as soft on drunken driving.

The fliers were sent to residents in a number of legislative districts where Democrats, including Rep. Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake and Rep. Will Morgan of Burnsville, are facing Republicans in competitive races. The mailers claim Democrats are responsible for passing a law that weakened penalties for drunk drivers.

The law allows drivers with DWI convictions to retain driving privileges if they agree to pay for ignition interlock systems that require them to test their blood alcohol level before operating their vehicles, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1tTeWRK ) reported. The car will not turn on if the system detects alcohol on the driver’s breath.

The law passed this year with bipartisan support.

Minnesota highways are safer because of the law, according to both Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Minnesotans for Safe Driving.

“The idea that the Legislature was being soft on drunk drivers when they passed a bill in 2014 which allowed those arrested and/or convicted of (Criminal Vehicular Operation) to have ignition interlock available to them is ridiculous,” wrote Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving.

The Republican Party of Minnesota is defending the campaign mailer, MPR reported.

In a news release Thursday, state GOP officials said the law “weakens penalties for people convicted of causing catastrophic damage to other people while driving drunk and lets them back on the road a whole year sooner.”

This is the second Republican mailer that has drawn criticism for its attack on Democrats’ handling of public safety issues. A previous GOP flier that was critical of an amendment to the state’s expungement laws was denounced by the Minnesota County Attorneys Association as “misleading.” The new law gives judges the authority to expunge all records so people cleared of crimes can more easily find jobs, but it only applies to non-violent offenses.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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