Today’s expected resignation of Senator Al Franken sets in motion a cascade of events at the Minnesota Capitol that could trigger a court battle. Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith takes Franken’s place and state Senate President Michelle Fischbach becomes lieutenant governor. Republicans don’t want to risk losing Fischbach’s Payneville seat in a special election, so she says she’ll also stay in the Senate — something Democrats say is unconstitutional. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk warns if any court case continues into the 2018 session, “If I’m right and the courts say [to Fischbach], no, you are no longer a member of the Senate when you became lieutenant governor, the courts would almost have to invalidate any votes that she took during that period.”
With Republicans’ razor-thin margin in the Senate, that could unravel legislation. Bakk says, “Anything passed with 34 Republican votes I assume the court would say is invalidated — so it could create some significant problems for the session.”
Fischbach said last week if she’s forced out of the Senate, she’ll run for her old seat in a special election — and if she wins as expected, she would then resign as lieutenant governor.
Bakk says how soon Democrats take legal action depends on what Fischbach does. “When she acts in any official capacity as a state senator, I would say that’s where a constitutional violation comes in.” Bakk says it’s unclear whether that violation would be something like presiding over a committee meeting before the legislature convenes February 20th, or whether Fischbach would actually have to take a vote.
More in this interview with MNN’s Bill Werner: