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House votes to close DWI loophole for snowmobile, ATV use

The House set its sights Wednesday on closing a loophole that allows someone convicted of drunken driving to still legally operate a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.

Sponsored by Rep. Anne Neu (R-North Branch) and Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch), HF3905/SF3638* would prohibit a person who commits a DWI offense in any vehicle from operating a snowmobile or ATV for one year. The bill, passed 125-0 as amended, returns to the Senate, where it first passed 59-7 May 2.

Under current law, an individual cited for driving a snowmobile or ATV while intoxicated loses driving privileges for one year and can incur the penalties of a DWI as if they had been cited while driving a motor vehicle.

The reverse, however, is not true; if an individual is cited for driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated, it does not impact off-road driving privileges.

Neu said the goal of the bill is to prevent tragedies similar to one that occurred on Chisago Lake in January, where 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter Jr. died after being struck by a snowmobile operated by someone who told authorities he had been drinking.

“That was the impetus for me looking into these drunk driving laws,” Neu said.

Neu successfully offered an amendment to name the act, should it go into law, “Little Alan’s Law.”

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) also successfully offered an amendment that would instruct the Department of Natural Resources to work with ice fish house manufacturers to increase outreach efforts explaining the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure in ice houses.

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