Unclear if Fischbach can keep Senate seat as Lt. Governor

Elias Hubbard
December 14, 2017

Mark Dayton (D) said Wednesday that he planned to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, his former chief of staff, to fill the seat of Sen.

Under the constitution, Senate President Michelle Fischbach, a Republican, ascends to the office of Lt. Governor. She says legal precedent allows her to retain her state Senate seat while serving as lieutenant governor.

Fischbach released a memorandum from Senate attorney Thomas Bottern that points to an 1898 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that says a sitting Senate president may remain in that job while also lieutenant governor. Governor Dayton said his understanding is she can not hold both offices and has asked the Attorney General for an opinion. Dayton said he invited Fischbach to lunch Friday to discuss the succession and her role as lieutenant governor.

The Minnesota Constitution states that "the last elected presiding officer of the senate shall become lieutenant governor". Al Franken's seat, which automatically promotes Fischbach to lieutenant governor. In 1898, the lieutenant governor presided over the Senate.

She said Fischbach made "an implausible argument based on an out-of-date case", and said the attorney general, other senators or even a constituent could sue to have Fischbach removed.

Complicating matters further is the thin margin of the GOP's majority in the Minnesota Senate.

Republicans hold a 34-33 advantage over Democrats until Friday, when a Democrat's resignation becomes official.

"It's good that Minnesota will keep a climate champion in the Senate".

Smith, a Democrat, will replace U.S. Sen.

The Senate's top Democrat thinks it is illegal for the Republican senator to hold both jobs. A special election for that seat will be held in February.

Fischbach said she expects to only do duties in her new office that the governor assigns. But Dayton said he's not interested.

Minnesota has elected governors and lieutenant governors of the same party on the same ticket.

"I'll do my best to stay healthy", Dayton quipped Wednesday.

Fischbach was hesitant to comment Wednesday on what she'd do as lieutenant governor if Dayton were unable to fulfill his duties, or on exactly how she'd split her time between the executive branch and her legislative role representing a St. Cloud-area district.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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