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Lieutenant governor sued for trying to remain in Minnesota Senate

Senate Media Service
Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach

We knew this was coming. The AP reports (via KSTP):Minnesota’s new Republican lieutenant governor is being sued for trying to keep her seat in the state Senate. … Senate President Michelle Fischbach automatically became Gov. Mark Dayton’s second-in-command this month when Tina Smith resigned the job for a seat in the U.S. Senate. But Democrats vowed to sue Fischbach to force her out of the Senate. … A constituent from her central Minnesota district filed a lawsuit against Fischbach on Friday. It argues it’s unconstitutional to hold both offices.

With a Minneapolis ordinance on the books, the minimum wage fight moves east. The Pioneer Press’ Jess Fleming reports: “The fight over whether and how to implement a $15 minimum wage is heating up in St. Paul. … Newly sworn-in St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has said the minimum wage increase is a top priority in his administration, and the polarizing issue has divided local restaurant workers. … Some in the industry have joined a nationwide fight for a tip credit, which would allow employers to pay tipped employees a lower base wage, provided their tips get them to at least $15 an hour. … Others have aligned themselves with the organization 15 Now, a group that fought successfully for a similar proposal in Minneapolis, and advocates for keeping the system status quo — that is, tipped workers would continue to be paid the same minimum wage as everyone else, no matter how much they earn in tips.”

Worth considering. MPR’s Brandt Williams reports: “On the eve of an anticipated snowstorm earlier this week, Melvin Carter considered how to make a possible snow emergency reflect his campaign pledge. … The new mayor of St. Paul said he’s told all of his department heads to use equity as a lens as they deliver basic services. That includes plowing snow, filling pot holes, or even picking up trash — especially in areas where people feel neglected by the city.”

New rules, enforced. The Star Tribune’s Adam Belz reports: “The city of Minneapolis has settled its first case of retaliation under the paid sick leave ordinance, resulting in an $11,000 settlement for the employee. … According to the city, a gas station employee reported the violation after his employer strongly discouraged employees from using sick leave. The employee became ill, but was denied leave, banned from the business and removed from the schedule, effectively losing his job. Unable to pay the rent, he was evicted from his apartment.”

In other news…

Yikes:F-M dating app users spot possible high-risk sex offender on Tinder” [Fargo Forum]

Making all the other primaries feel inadequate:Sanders files for 23B, setting up special primary” [Mankato Free Press]

Challenging Keith Ellison, will move to Minneapolis if he wins:Former St. Cloud ‘Dracula’ candidate vies for Congress” [St. Cloud Times]

Wisconsin comes off so thirsty:Why Is CTA Enabling a Transit-Shaming Campaign to Lure Millennials to Wisconsin? – Streetsblog Chicago” [Streetsblog Chicago]

Well done:Minneapolis poet Bao Phi wins award for best picture book in the country” [Star Tribune]

Very liberal interpretation of the phrase “good deal”:Believe it or not, $4,809 is a good deal for a Super Bowl ticket” [Star Tribune]

Interesting development:Vikings plan to dress Sam Bradford against Saints” [Pioneer Press]

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/12/2018 - 03:25 pm.

    Fischback lawsuit standing

    Did it have to be a constituent filing suit rather than just “the Democrats” in order for there to be “standing” for the suit to proceed? (I know there are some lawyerly types here who can probably answer this!)

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/12/2018 - 04:06 pm.


      A constituent is likely the only party who can show an injury-in-fact (no representation, because of Fischbach’s ineligibility).

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 01/13/2018 - 07:57 am.

        Subtle difference

        It seems like there’s a difference (perhaps subtle) between saying “I didn’t get representation because my Senator is busy being Lieutenant Governor” (the constituent’s argument) vs. saying “It’s unconstitutional for an individual to try to be both a Senator and the Lieutenant Governor” (potentially the argument the Democrats would make?). Or perhaps that inability to do justice to both jobs at the same time is the conflict that’s at the heart of why it was deemed to be unconstitutional in the first place (as opposed to some other sort of conflict of interest)?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/14/2018 - 03:00 pm.

          Subtle, But Real

          A person needs to show an injury in order to have standing. Thus, saying that something is unconstitutional leads to the question, “So how does that hurt you?”

          By the way, I haven’t read the complaint so I don’t know what the plaintiff’s argument is. If it were me, I would argue that I am denied representation because Lieutenant Governor Fischbach is ineligible to serve in the Senate. I would also ask for a writ directing Governor Dayton to call a special election to fill the vacancy.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/13/2018 - 01:49 pm.


    I would say a constituent would have a much better argument for standing. I don’t see that Democrats have any standing at all. Certainly they aren’t harmed in any respect. As for standing, it’s certainly the case that the residents of the district have a right to be represented by the senator they voted for.

    For me, the legal issue is pretty simple. What does the constitution say about removal of state senators from office? Are any of it’s provisions applicable to this situation? If not, I don’t see an argument for removing a state senator from office. I really don’t know what’s going on here. I would certainly hope it isn’t the case that in picking Tina Smith for the senate, Gov. Dayton had some sort of notion that he would improve the Democratic Party’s position in the senate. That was just never in the cards, at least not without the cooperation of the senate’s Republican majority. It is awkward for a senator to serve as lieutenant governor, but that seems manageable. If that was a major issue for the governor, the easiest thing in the world would have been for the governor to choose one of the many other qualified democrats who would like to be a US senator.

  3. Submitted by richard owens on 01/14/2018 - 11:41 am.

    What was the legislative intent of the succession law?

    Would Paul Ryan become both legislative and executive leader if both Trump and Pence met some events that evoked succession?

    I suspect this is easily a case of serving in two mutually exclusive branches of a “checks and balances” system. It would simply be inconsistent with separation of powers..

    IMHO, Republicans should try to follow the law and stop looking for some advantage every time something new occurs.

    She could be a good Lt. Governor, and her replacement could be a good leader.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/14/2018 - 03:11 pm.


    I think it’s possible that some court will rule that Sen. Fischbach is ineligible to serve as lieutenant governor without resigning from the senate. That seems to me a far more likely outcome than the stripping her of her senate seat absent any relevant provision requiring that in the constitution.

    I don’t see that the Republicans are looking for any particular advantage here. Their offer to arrange for the election of a democratic senator as LG was quite within the bounds of reason, I thought. And as much as anything, I think Sen. Fischbach by agreeing to serve as LG is doing Democrats a favor. I am as strong a Democrat as there is, but I am no fan of trying to game the system. I hope that wasn’t the intent here.

    • Submitted by richard owens on 01/15/2018 - 11:37 am.

      It seems unambiguous, and not “optional”

      [MN Law]

      The last elected presiding officer of the senate shall become lieutenant governor in case a vacancy occurs in that office.

      If she refuses?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/16/2018 - 12:52 pm.

      Other Way Around

      She became Lieutenant Governor automatically when Senator Smith resigned. That automatic succession made her ineligible to serve in the state Senate.

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