Good morning! Watch these five politics stories today.

1. Confederate flag may come down.

The South Carolina Senate voted to take down the Confederate flag that flies in front of the state’s Capitol building. But the South Carolina House still has to vote on the proposal, and right now, it’s unclear whether proponents of taking down the flag have the votes. (AP via Star Tribune)

2. Clinton versus Sanders in Iowa.

Yesterday, I included two stories in the Digest about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unexpected success among the liberal base early in the primary season. As The New York Times reports, Sanders’ chief rival, Hillary Clinton, is taking his campaign seriously, particularly in Iowa, a state important for winning the Democratic presidential primary. (The New York Times)

3. Nuclear accord countdown.

With the official deadline approaching for a nuclear accord between Iran and a handful of countries, including the United States, Iran is asking for a United Nations arms embargo to be completely lifted. (The Wall Street Journal)

4. Martin debrief.

The Bakk-Dayton divide. Rural Minnesota versus the Twin Cities. House Speaker Kurt Daudt and whether he “won” or not. Those are some of the topics MinnPost covered in an interview this week with DFL party chair Ken Martin. (MinnPost)

5. Minnesota masterpieces. 

Expect a lot of talk about where to display a slew of state artwork once the Capitol renovation is complete. What can I say? It’s a slow news week here in Minnesota. (MPR News)


“The Battle of Nashville” by Howard Pyle hangs in the governor’s reception room at the Minnesota state Capitol. (Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society)

A state panel will spend the next six months trying to decide what kind of art is needed inside the renovated Minnesota Capitol building. The panel likely will consider how to display governor portraits and whether some of the depictions of Civil War battles should come down, at least temporarily.

The art subcommittee of the Capitol Preservation Committee set out a timeline Monday for gathering public input on those decisions, but no hearings have been scheduled. It will make its recommendations in January.

The more than $300 million Capitol renovation project is expected to be completed in early 2017.

State Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, said one issue up for discussion is whether to continue the tradition of displaying portraits of former governors, which currently total 39.

“Is this the most important use of our wall space moving forward from here to eternity?” Loeffler asked. “Our Capitol is 110 years old. If you think of how many governors we might have in the next 110 years, that’s a lot of wall space for portraits.”

Loeffler said portraits could be rotated rather than having them all on permanent display.

Another legislator who serves on the subcommittee disagrees with that approach.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said all of the governors should be included.

“A chronological display of the governors and their portraits I think is good for interpreting the history of the state,” Urdahl said.

The panel is also expected to discuss the amount of Civil War art in the building. Loeffler and Gov. Mark Dayton have previously questioned the need for all of the large paintings depicting Civil War battles.

Urdahl said he wants to make sure that there isn’t an attempt to rewrite history.

“The Capitol essentially was built as a monument to the Civil War veterans,” he said. “That was an important part of our history.”

Lawmakers allocated $3.3 million this year for Capitol art preservation but nothing for new art. Still, members of the subcommittee are looking for ways to add to the Capitol collections.

Loeffler said new art is needed to “enliven and update the story of Minnesota.”

State Sen. Branden Petersen said Monday the time required to be a lawmaker is overwhelming. Courtesy, Minnesota Senate

State Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, announced today that he’s not running for re-election in 2016, ending the career of a lawmaker who wasn’t afraid to buck his own party on controversial issues — including same-sex marriage.

Petersen served one term in the Minnesota Senate and one term in the Minnesota House. He said he’s making his decision because the time required to serve in the Legislature has become too much. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife, Jessica, and their three children.

“I’m really just looking forward to the time where I can focus on one thing at work and focus on my family at home,” Petersen said. “The Legislature has a way of consuming you 24 hours a day and it will be nice not to have that.”

Petersen has been a champion of pushing issues that ruffled some feathers at the Capitol, including requiring police to disclose use of surveillance technology to the public.

He was also the only Republican in the Minnesota Senate to co-author and support a bill in 2013 that legalized same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Petersen has been criticized by some religious conservative groups for that vote. He said he was expecting a challenge for the Republican Party endorsement but was confident he would prevail. But he said he considered the time it would take to win the endorsement when he decided to step aside.

“It was a factor in the sense that my campaign was going to be very, very time consuming and playing into my desire to spend more time with my family and just overall be more available,” he said.

Petersen also said he didn’t expect the Legislature would support many of the changes to data privacy laws that he was pushing at the Legislature. He blamed that on the lack of individual autonomy by legislators. He said there was too much pressure by caucus leaders in both parties to support the position of the entire group.

“There is an overwhelming, almost unstoppable force that puts legislators in a spot where they almost always comply with the group or caucus position,” he said.

Petersen said he plans to continue in his job selling cars at an Elk River, Minn., car dealership.

He’s the third Republican in the Minnesota Senate to announce they’re not running for re-election. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen and Dave Brown of Becker are also not running again.