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Lawmakers target slavery clause in Minnesota Constitution

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Spurred by a police chief, Minnesota lawmakers launched a drive Thursday to remove from the state constitution a clause allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crimes.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, who had been bothered by the language for some time, made it his new year’s resolution to get it deleted. He found a sympathetic ear in St. Paul Representative John Lesch, who will get a hearing Tuesday on his proposal asking voters in November to remove the language from the constitution.

The bill of rights in the 1857 Minnesota Constitution says “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.” The amendment would strike the punishment exception.

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“It’s inappropriate that language mentioning slavery still exists in our constitution, even if’s narrowly constructed and, some would say, obsolete,” Lesch said at a news conference.

ASSOCIATED PRESS