MN voters could decide how to fill lieutenant governor vacancies

Legislation introduced Monday at the Capitol would give Minnesota voters a say in deciding how lieutenant governor vacancies are filled.

State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, is proposing a constitutional amendment allowing the governor to fill the vacancy by appointment, rather than having the presiding officer of the Senate automatically ascend to the post.

Republican Michelle Fischbach became lieutenant governor in January when DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate. Fischbach has refused to resign her state Senate seat and has already faced one lawsuit. Another legal challenge is expected.

Marty said he wants to avoid a repeat of the current dustup.

“I think that unfortunately, we’re in a real pickle right now,” Marty said. “Everybody’s fighting over whether a lieutenant governor has to take the position or not take the position. It’s not good for the Senate. It’s not good for the Legislature. And frankly, the governor ought to be able to choose their own lieutenant governor.”

Under Marty’s bill, a governor’s appointment of a new lieutenant governor would be subject to Senate confirmation. The proposed constitutional amendment needs approval from the House and Senate to get on the statewide ballot this fall.

Marty said he believes there is bipartisan support for the proposed constitutional amendment.

But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, doesn’t believe the change is needed. Gazelka contends that Fischbach is on solid legal ground to hold both jobs.

“I’ve always believed that the president of the Senate should be able to do both,” Gazelka said. “I don’t know what the courts are going to decide.”