Minnesota Republican may be stripped of committee assignments after drunk driving arrest

House Speaker Melissa Hortman says she’s waiting for more information on the drunken driving arrest of Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbook, before deciding whether to strip him of his committee assignments.

MPR News’ Brian Bakst first reported on Friday that Grossell was arrested on DWI charges in northern Minnesota. His blood alcohol content was 0.15 – almost twice the legal limit – while driving 71 mph in a 55.

Grossell had previously been arrested in 2019 on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing after a drunken incident at a hotel bar in St. Paul.

The House Democratic leadership stripped Grossell of his committee assignments following his 2019 arrest. Part of the reason was that after he got out of jail he walked into St. Paul police headquarters and announced to officers that he was a state representative and that there would be “hell to pay.”

His committee assignments have since been reinstated. Grossell is a member of the public safety, judiciary and capital investment committees.

In a text message to the Reformer, Hortman said Grossell’s latest arrest appears to have an “entirely different set of facts.” Asked what would be cause for him to lose his committee assignments again, Hortman said it depends on the “totality of the facts” and noted she waited until the 2019 criminal case was resolved before making her decision then.

Grossell avoided a conviction for his 2019 arrest via a six-month court diversion program involving fines and community service. He also wasn’t jailed following his more recent DWI arrest because the local facility in Clearwater County was apparently closed.

Since 2019, Grossell, a retired sheriff’s deputy, has advocated for harsher treatment of criminal offenders. In 2021, for instance, he railed against “the dangerous push by the Walz administration to reduce sentences for repeat criminals.”

Last year he supported a bill that would have made it harder for criminal suspects to post bail, writing that he was “fed up with criminals bouncing out of jail without any real accountability.”

Grossell is not the only sitting state lawmaker with a recent DWI arrest under his belt. Republican Sen. John Jasinski of Faribault was caught driving drunk in October 2020, while Democratic Sen. Tou Xiong of Maplewood blew a 0.11 BAC after being pulled over in January 2022. Like Grossell, both of those arrests happened while the lawmakers were in office.

Alcohol is a factor in more than a quarter of Minnesota traffic deaths each year, according to state data, and drunk driving costs the state more than a quarter billion dollars annually. But neither the lawmakers getting arrested on alcohol-related charges, nor the voters who keep sending them back, seem to care a whole lot.

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.