State Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville, advanced her legislation to elect five of Tennessee's offices.
Sen. Kurita said, "Tennessee is one of only four states that does not allow for the popular election of these powerful offices. I want to allow the people to vote. This amendment will give Tennesseans an opportunity to decide if they want to keep the current system of 'internally selecting' five of the most important offices in the state or if they want the opportunity to elect them.
"It also gives the attorney general the power to investigate and prosecute cases of public corruption."
Currently, the speaker of the Senate serves as the lieutenant governor and is elected by a majority vote of the Senate. The state attorney general is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, and the members of the Tennessee House and Senate elect the treasurer, secretary of state, and comptroller.
"Opening these offices to popular election will give a wider range of people the opportunity to serve. Having a greater diversity of candidates can only help the state," Sen. Kurita said. "Most Tennesseans have no idea that we are not allowed to vote on these officers. The people should have the opportunity to voice their opinion, as they do in almost every other state."
She said it is important to give the state attorney general prosecutorial powers.
"We had to sit back and wait for the FBI to clean up Tennessee Waltz because our attorney general didn't have the authority to take action," she said. "Our attorney general should have the authority to prosecute public corruption. We shouldn't have to wait for the FBI to take action."
Allowing the popular election of these offices has been a goal of Sen. Kurita's for years, she said. This is the first year she has been able to keep the bill moving through three committees and now all the way to the floor of the Senate.
Her constitutional amendment to popularly elect lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, and secretary of state moved one step closer to passage when it received its first reading on the floor of the State Senate on Thursday. Constitutional amendments must be read twice to the full Senate before they can be put to a vote, which means that SJR0139 should be scheduled for a vote on Wednesday.