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Capitol Retort: Masks off; sine d’oh!; okey toke

Kevin Featherly//May 12, 2021

Capitol Retort: Masks off; sine d’oh!; okey toke

Kevin Featherly//May 12, 2021

Question 1: There has been both exhilaration and cynicism with respect to the governor’s plan, finally, to dump almost all COVID restrictions by July 1—though he plans to keep some things like the eviction moratorium in place. Where did this news put you on the optimistic-to-cynical spectrum?

Patrick Coleman, Minnesota Historical Society senior curator: I’m trying to be optimistic about it, so it’s somewhere left of the middle on the optimism scale. It’s easy to be to be cynical—and God knows I am. But I’m taking this as a positive sign.

Brian Johnson, GOP House member, former Public Safety chair: It’s pretty high on the cynical side. There are just too many things that I have concerns on.

Melisa Lopez Franzen, attorney, DFL state senator: Let’s just say, it’s politics. [Laughs.] The timing is very critical, I think, when it comes to taking the pressure off the issue of any governor’s emergency powers. That’s off the table in terms of negotiating for the final budget bill negotiations. So the timing is … I wouldn’t say suspicious, it’s politics, right? There’s that piece of it. But the other piece is that we’re doing a great job with moving forward with the vaccinations. [Gov. Tim Walz’s] work early on in the pandemic really brought us to this moment.

Amy Koch, former GOP Senate majority leader: I never understood why the governor and the Legislature couldn’t work together better. I’m never cynical or surprised about anything, it just is what it is. I just know that things need to be open. We need get to that space. People are still afraid and still hiding and we have to stop that. It’s not good for our mental health, it’s not good for our kids or any of that. This whole thing started with two weeks to get the hospital’s ready. And it’s been a year and a half later. Let’s get open. And then, let’s put together some people to look back on the last year and a half, at the mistakes made and the good things done. And let’s have a plan for the next time

Question 2: By the time people read this, there will be just a few days left before the end of the legislative session. What’s your gut say? Will lawmakers polish off all their budget and policy work in time for the mandatory May 17 adjournment?

Coleman: [Laughs.] I’d bet the farm, no. That’s an easy one. But are there any takers on my bet? That would be the hard part.

Johnson: It’ll be very difficult. There are too many things that need to be worked out. I don’t see them happening. They’ve tied tax increases and the police reform stuff in, which is actually going to hurt the safety of the public, to finish off the year. I believe that is going to be a real obstacle.

Franzen: This is not a typical year because of the federal money coming in and not having guidance [on how to use it] until after May 17. So I think that will have a role in the timing. I think we will do most, if not all of our work that’s required. But there are going to be some loose ends that are going to have to be tied, potentially later in early summer. That’s my optimism, and it’s also what I can foresee is going to happen. I might be wrong, but I think that’s what’s going to happen.

Koch: My guess is no. They’ll go over. They’ll have a special session coming in June to extend the emergency powers at least one more time. They’ll use that. And you know what? They can. The federal money guidance is not in, the Legislature wants to and should have a say in how that money is spent. So, it’s not a government shutdown. But going into June, I actually think that’s legitimate.

Ryan Winkler
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler spoke Friday on behalf of his marijuana legalization bill. (Image courtesy of House Public Information Service)

Question 3: House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler’s pot-legalization bill had its 12th and final committee stop Friday, passing Ways and Means by a 16-10 vote. Be honest. If marijuana is ever legalized, are you going one toke over the line?

Coleman: Is a blunt one toke over, or more? [Laughs.] You know, I smoked for about three months the summer after I graduated from high school. It didn’t work out well for me. That was when “Minnesota Green” was the strongest stuff that you could get. My guess is that I will try it in a padded room somewhere. But I don’t think I’ll do it on the street.

Franzen: It never really worked with me. I’m more about the social justice issue with marijuana and cannabis. But I will certainly celebrate with other people. Put it that way.

Johnson: I was an undercover narcotics officer. I’ve seen the effects of marijuana, especially on kids and young adults. Even at my age—I’m pushing 60—I still won’t be using it.

Koch: Yeah! Yeah, I will. If it’s legal? What the heck? I’ve been a nerd all my life.

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