St. Paul, Minn.—Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith’s appointment to U.S. Senate by Governor Mark Dayton, announced today, has set in motion a number of rarely used mechanisms. The Minnesota State Senate President, Sen. Michelle Fischbach (GOP-Paynesville), will become the Lieutenant Governor according to the line of succession outlined in the Minnesota Constitution (Article 5, Section 5). Sen. Fischbach confirmed her intention to do so in a press conference this afternoon.
In 1972 Minnesotans approved a constitutional amendment removing the duties of the Senate President from the Lieutenant Governor. This amendment, which became the modern Article 4, Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution prohibits Sen. Fischbach from serving in both the Minnesota Senate and as the Lieutenant Governor. Because the succession cannot be declined, this forthcoming appointment will trigger a special election for the senate seat, once Sen. Al Franken’s resignation is official. Senate District 13, currently represented by Sen. Fischbach, includes the communities of Sauk Rapids, Sartell, and St. Joseph, Paynesville, Kimball, Cold Spring Rockville, Holdingford and others.
“I congratulate Lt. Gov. Smith on her nomination to the US Senate. I have appreciated working with her in each of her roles in the Dayton administration. She is an outstanding champion of Minnesota values,” Senate DFL Caucus Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said. “This appointment, and the subsequent ascension of the Senate President to Lieutenant Governor, means the Minnesota Senate will likely face two special elections this winter. The balance of power in the Minnesota Senate will be up for grabs.”
Gov. Dayton has requested an opinion from the Attorney General to clarify whether or not the Lieutenant Governor can in fact hold both roles as Sen. Fischbach intends. Gov. Dayton stated he anticipates Sen. Franken’s resignation to come in January.
1.Line of succession found in Article 5 Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution
2. Passage of 1972 constitutional amendment to provide for the joint election of the governor and lieutenant governor; to remove the lieutenant governor as the presiding officer of the senate.
3. 1972 Constitutional amendment to provide for the joint election of the governor and lieutenant governor; to remove the lieutenant governor as the presiding officer of the senate.
4. Restriction on holding office found in Article 4 Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution
5. Gov. Mark Dayton letter to Attorney General Lori Swanson requesting an opinion of the compatibility of roles for Lieutenant Governor and President of the Senate
6. Minnesota State House Nonpartisan Research Memo regarding compatibility of roles