As I predicted on January 1, Professor Stephen Carter and others to the contrary notwithstanding, (now former) Minnesota Senator Al Franken resigned from office effective noon yesterday. He submitted his resignation to Governor Mark Dayton. Dayton has appointed Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith — another flaky urban liberal — to take Franken’s place. Ms. Smith goes to Washington (or went there yesterday). She will be sworn in within the hour.
Back home, complications ensue. The president of the Minnesota Senate has become lieutenant governor by operation of law. That is Republican Michelle Fischbach. Senator Fischbach declines to resign her seat in the Senate — it’s not clear whether she has lost it by operation of law — where Republicans hold a one-vote majority and the Democratic minority leader declines to accede to a special session of the legislature limited to the purpose of electing a Democratic senator president in order to serve out the rest of Smith’s term. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has issued an opinion holding that Fischbach cannot serve both in the legislative and executive branches, though the issue is not entirely clear.
The Star Tribune provides a sober editorial summary here. A trip to the Minnesota Supreme Court may be necessary to sort things out. (I hope Senate Republicans will come up with a workable plan before they submit themselves to the mercy of Governor Dayton’s appointees on the court once again.) Al Franken hasn’t been funny in a long time, if indeed he ever was, but comedy of the “who’s on first” sort follows his departure from office.