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The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Nearly 8,000 documents released by WikiLeaks purportedly reveal secrets about the CIA’s tools for breaking into computers, cellphones and even smart TVs. (AP file photo)
The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Nearly 8,000 documents released by WikiLeaks purportedly reveal secrets about the CIA’s tools for breaking into computers, cellphones and even smart TVs. (AP file photo)

Capitol Retort: Big brother; insuring insurers; stadium drama

Editor’s note: Welcome to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with a rotating cast of legal and political people in the know. Answers are edited for length and clarity. Any instances of agreement are accidental.

Question 1: We now know that the CIA has the ability to hack into consumer phones, computers and smart TVs. What do you think they have on you?

Pat Garofalo, GOP chair, House Job Growth and Energy Affordability committee: That I lead a very boring lifestyle, spend lots of time reading and have a bizarre fetish for left-handed redheads.

Mary Liz Holberg, former GOP House member: Well, I have a pretty healthy collection of dust bunnies under my bed. And occasionally when alone I use language I would not use in public.

John Choi, Ramsey County attorney: That I Google about food a lot, whether it is the latest restaurant or recipes or articles about various cuts of meat. I think if I wasn’t doing what I do, maybe I’d be a butcher. I think it is just fascinating, all those different cuts of meat and all that stuff. And of course I put that into action by going to the butcher shop or grocery store and buying various cuts and trying them. And I follow Sen. Rand Paul. I’m a fan — that’s probably surprising to people.

Scott Dibble, DFL state senator: If they hacked into my smart TV — which I do have, I cut the cord and I’m no longer a cable company subscriber, so I just watch TV over the Internet — they will find that I am shockingly behind on all the cool series. I’m just now watching “Downton Abbey.”

Question 2: The House was expected to vote Monday to spend $384 million on reinsurance—insuring health insurers against runaway medical costs. The bill doesn’t guarantee reduced premiums. Is this a bad idea, or is it the best among the poor available options for stabilizing individual insurance?

Garofalo: This is one of the best options we have at trying to bring it back, but make no mistake about it. The individual market may be like Humpty Dumpty — once the egg is broken, you can’t put it back together again. It could be that Obamacare destroyed the individual market and we won’t be able to fix it. We’re going to try to resuscitate it. But there are certainly no guarantees.

Holberg: I think at this point it is an attempt to deal with a very fluid situation. It’s one step, but I don’t think anybody knows what the net results are going to be until there is an ability to evaluate what happens on the federal level. Insurance companies have talked about being in a tailspin. They need some level of assurance to even begin preparing rates for the upcoming insurance year.

Choi: It would be a really bad thing if we created a framework of reinsurance that would not lead to reduced premiums for the public. However, I do know that the concept of reinsurance is utilized in other areas like workers’ compensation, so there could be value in that. But at the end of the day, if they have reinsurance for insurance companies and the consumers end up paying more or don’t have a reduction in premiums, then nothing has really been accomplished.

Dibble: It’s a terrible idea. Especially when you have a far superior idea, which it the MinnesotaCare buy-in. That, of course, gains you a lot of benefits. It delivers a high-quality insurance product, creates a pool of a million people and the purchasing power that entails, and has a very low administrative overhead. That would stabilize the individual insurance market. The reinsurance market simply — once again — puts insurance companies in the middle of the whole health care system to make profits.

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz chats with outgoing Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen on Feb. 24 at the Hyundai Club in U.S. Bank Stadium. Blatz has replaced Kelm-Helgen as interim chair. (Staff Photo: Bill Klotz)

Former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz chats with outgoing Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen on Feb. 24 at the Hyundai Club in U.S. Bank Stadium. Blatz has replaced Kelm-Helgen as interim chair. (Staff Photo: Bill Klotz)

Question 3:  The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has hired Rick Evans as its new CEO and executive director. How do you feel now that our long, local sports nightmare is over?

Garofalo: Well, I received a courtesy call from Mr. Evans this morning offering me tickets to the Super Bowl. So I think the new management is doing a fine job and is one that I can consistently support. [Note: The representative wishes to assure our lawyerly audience that he is being sarcastic.]

Holberg: Is it? That’s my response. I’m guessing there is more to come.

Choi: I don’t know Rick Evans. But I do know that the governor appointed Kathleen Blatz to take over the stewardship of the commission. I thought he made a really great choice there. I’m a big fan of hers and she is going to do a great job. But it’s also really sad. I hope that, for the public, we can move on and recognize that this probably was [Michele Kelm-Helgen‘s and Ted Mondale‘s] worst day in public service. But they’ve admitted their mistakes. Now we need to focus on the important work that is ahead.

Dibble: I am guessing that we are going to have some other huge, God-awful stadium gun to our head in the not-too-distant future. It seems to be the cottage industry of Minnesota. So there will be nightmares beyond nightmares to come. However, I am very excited that I am going to the home opener of the Minnesota United FC game on Sunday [Note: Dibble was interviewed Friday, March 10.] I am a season ticket holder, though I am kind of literally in the cheap seats.

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