Minnesota state Senate President Michelle Fischbach became the state’s lieutenant governor Wednesday.
Or did she?
Fischbach hedged her new title, calling herself “acting lieutenant governor” — a phrase that does not appear anywhere in the Minnesota Constitution.
She hasn’t taken the oath of office — an act the constitution says she “shall take.”
And she’s refusing to accept compensation for lieutenant governor.
Welcome to Minnesota’s latest political intrigue, made possible by the resignation of (former) U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who was formally replaced Wednesday by (now) U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who resigned from her (former) position as lieutenant governor when (still) Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith to succeed Franken.
All this drama around the traditionally not-that-big-a-deal position of lieutenant governor is because Fischbach, a Republican, doesn’t want to be forced out of her Senate seat, which she has held since 1996 — and which she refused to vacate Wednesday.
If she is forced to resign from the Senate — as the Senate’s top Democrat is demanding, even calling her a “former colleague” — it’s possible Republicans could lose their slim majority in the Senate.
So, yeah, this is about politics.
Of course it's about politics. The DFL has proven time and again that they're willing to do whatever to undermine the GOP majority in the Legislature. And since
As with the fight over the question of Dayton having authority to veto the operating budget of a co-equal branch of government, this saga also looks to face some legal challenges. And if it's ruled that Fischbach cannot legally assume both roles, she has said she would resign as Lt. Gov. and run in a special election for her vacated Senate seat.
One thing which would (for the most part) make this drama moot? There is a special election taking place in Senate District 54 to replace outgoing DFL senator Dan Schoen. If the GOP were to prevail in that race on February 12 (certainly possible given both House seats in SD54 are held by Republicans), the 33-33 deadlock (assuming Fischbach's seat were vacant) would then become a 34-32 GOP majority entering the start of the Legislative session eight days later. That would certainly be some poetic justice, eh?
Welcome to the 2018 new cycle! We're not even a week into the new year, yet it's already been a wild ride.