Lawmakers debate legislation to make Kias, Hyundai harder to steal

Of all the issues to get politically heated, you might not expect a push to make cars harder to steal to be one of them. But legislation heard on Monday to safeguard the owners of Kias and Hyundais in Minnesota turned into criticisms of policing and prosecution.

The bill under review would require car manufacturers to install a device that makes vehicles harder to steal — which Kias and Hyundais lack.

"Consumers are purchasing vehicles that they absolutely expect to have anti-theft devices in them," Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) said.

Even for a simple bill in its very first hearing, the politics are complicated.

"This bill is bizarre," said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch).

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"And I think it's our job to make sure criminals aren't out on the street, so when we want to start doing that to solve the problem, look me up," opined Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown). "I'm eager to help."

The bill at issue is attempting to address a drastic rise in stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles because they're simply easier to steal.

"We went from having 200 stolen a year, about average, to last year, ending the year, with 2,340 of these thefts." explained Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara. "

The bill is backed by Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara. It would require all cars dating back to 2013 to have anti-theft immobilizers, and automakers required to recall and install them in those that don't.

In the House Commerce Committee, Republicans argued the problem is not holding the car thieves accountable. "They have decimated their police force, and now we're going to hold manufacturers liable for those problems," Rep. Brindley said. "I mean, it's just very bizarre."

Chief O'Hara agrees there is an accountability problem but also a public safety problem. "This is a problem that results in young people dying at times, being seriously injured."

These thefts aren't a Minneapolis-only issue; they've risen nationwide. The bill passed, but every Republican voted against it, with one suggesting holding social media companies accountable for allowing the videos that show how these vehicles are stolen. Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell) said, "If you want to talk about consumer protection, that's a great place to start."