Editor’s note: Welcome to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with a rotating cast of political people in the know. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Any instances of agreement are accidental.
Question 1: Tensions and theatrics over Civil War paintings in the Capitol grew so heated that Gov. Mark Dayton walked out of the last Capitol Preservation Commission meeting, saying Republicans had hijacked the issue. Does this bode ill for the coming legislative session?
Greg Davids, GOP House Tax Committee chair: He needs to calm down, catch his breath and get his act together. My advice would be don’t worry, be happy. Uncle Greg says, ‘Governor, just cool it. Calm down. It’ll be OK.’
Katharine Tinucci, former Dayton campaign manager: It does not bode well for sure. If they can’t agree on which paintings to hang in the Capitol, I am concerned that they are not going to agree on how to craft a state budget. This has been an incredibly tense start from Republicans creating a little theater around this issue. And the governor has shown that he has no patience for it anymore. I think, if they want to get anything done, the Republicans are going to have to get serious and come to the table ready to compromise with the governor, because he is not going to back down from what he wants.
John Kriesel, former GOP House member: No, I don’t think so. You know how it is when people in the same room get irritated with one another. There has been some heated stuff with Dayton and the Republicans in the past, and they still have been able to come to resolution. They’ll rip on each other to the media and stuff like that, but ultimately the hope is that they will be adults and do what is best for the state of Minnesota.
Question 2: President-elect Donald Trump is saying that he will walk away from his business interests to focus on being president and avoid conflicts of interest, but he has not declared whether he will put them into a blind trust. He has said before he’ll put his kids in charge. Are you confident he’ll get this right?
Davids: I think he will. No matter what he does, he will be criticized. He will abide by the law, but his critics will continue forever.
Tinucci: No. I think it is extraordinary that he would even need to say this or that any president-elect would need to talk about it. Any other candidate previously has been very clear from the outset that they would not pursue other business interests while in the White House. The fact that we are talking about it on Twitter weeks after he was elected gives me no confidence that he will handle it properly and ethically.
Kriesel: I think so. It is easy right now to say, ‘We’re going to do this,’ or ‘We’re going to do that.’ But once you become president, I don’t see how there would be enough free time to even think about the business interests. You have so many more things to worry about — your national security briefings, your meetings with world leaders, your dealings with your Cabinet and Congress. I mean, he is going to be so busy that I don’t think the business interests are going to be an issue.
Whether he should put them into a trust or not? I think he should, I think that’s the right thing to do. But I don’t think people should be too concerned about that.
Question 3: The NFL has suspended former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Seantrel Henderson for 10 games because he used medical marijuana to relieve his Crohn’s disease — just as do about 5 percent of Minnesota’s medical marijuana patients. Was this fair or foul on the NFL’s part?
Davids: I think it was fair. You have to go by what the rules are at the time. And if he had violated the rule, he needed to pay the appropriate consequences. So if the NFL is going by what the laws say or what the rules say, then that’s what we have to go by. I think the NFL acted appropriately.
Tinucci: Certainly there is more to be learned about marijuana for medical purposes and even recreationally, and I think there is not enough science yet. But there are some developments and we’ve learned some new things about the impact and the benefits and any possible risk. I think that the way the nation seems to be trending is toward more use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, so this is not a very forward-looking decision on the part of the NFL.
The reality is that they get to set their own rules. It is not a democracy. But whether I think they are fair or not, whether I think they do the right thing around the health of their players or not? I don’t think they do. I think they should worry less about medical marijuana for Crohn’s disease and more about concussions.
Kriesel: I think it’s foul. I think it’s an archaic rule. Marijuana is, of course, illegal in some areas. But if it was prescribed by a physician, obviously it shouldn’t be an issue. So I think the NFL was wrong on it. To go even further, though, I think they need to abandon that whole thing and just focus on performance-enhancing drugs. That’s what really compromises the integrity of the game. People don’t care who smokes pot anymore. It’s going to be legal in every state in a few years, I would bet.