Senator Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) will become the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Minnesota as soon as a vacancy is created with the resignation of the current Lt. Governor Tina Smith. Smith is Gov. Mark Dayton’s choice to replace Sen. Al Franken in the United States Senate. Under the constitution, Senate President Fischbach is “the last elected presiding officer of the Senate” and therefore “shall become” lieutenant governor once the vacancy is official.
“I’m honored to become Lieutenant Governor but I want to assure my constituents in Stearns and Benton Counties that I will continue to be their Senator,” said Fischbach. “I’ve been told by Senate Counsel the Minnesota Constitution allows the Senate President to serve both roles so that’s what I plan to do for the reminder of Gov. Dayton’s term.”
The Minnesota Supreme Court considered this exact question in State ex rel. Marr v. Stearns, ruling the constitution provides that the senate president can remain as a senator and assume the duties of lieutenant governor either temporarily or permanently. When the president temporarily becomes lieutenant governor (such as when the governor is incapacitated or under impeachment), the court ruled that the president must be allowed to continue service in the senate once the governor resumes office. The Minnesota Supreme Court further ruled that since the constitution does not provide different procedures for a permanent assumption of the lieutenant governor’s office, the senate president can remain a senator while serving as lieutenant governor.
“Since the office of Lieutenant Governor has no official executive duties provided in the constitution, I look forward to continuing my work for the residents of Senate District 13 and serving the Senate as its president,” added Fischbach.
Available for download: Memorandum from Senate counsel Tom Bottern