Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Resolution Allowing Voters To Change Way Attorney General Is Selected

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A resolution allowing voters to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), calls for a transparent nomination process by the Tennessee Supreme Court in selecting the State Attorney General, followed by a confirmation vote of the nominee by a majority of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“This is one of the most important appointed positions in the state,” said Senator Yager.  “The State Attorney General has over 340 employees and a budget of over $50 million, not to mention the important decisions that are made which affect the lives of the people of Tennessee.”

The 1870 constitution required Supreme Court judges be elected by Tennessee voters.  Senator Yager said the current system of appointing justices means the selection of the State Attorney General is twice removed from the public.  Tennessee is the only state in which the State Supreme Court appoints the attorney general.  The votes taken by the court on nominees are not currently disclosed to the public. 

“The reason for this legislation is two-fold,” Senator Yager said.  “It will provide for a more transparent process in the selection of nominees.  The second is that confirmation by the General Assembly will make the process accountable to the people by giving elected officials a role in the process.”

“This proposal adheres to the intention of the authors of our 1870 State Constitution, while keeping intact the current nomination role for the judiciary,” he continued.

The resolution would require the votes of the Tennessee Supreme Court justices to be held in open court with recorded votes. Once the nomination is made, the legislature would have 60 days to go through the confirmation process. In the event that the candidate is rejected, then the court would have 60 days to make another nomination.

The resolution, which was approved by the 111th General Assembly in 2019, must receive a two-thirds majority of the 112th General Assembly under the Tennessee Constitution.  Once on the ballot, constitutional amendments must receive a majority of votes cast in the gubernatorial election in 2022.

 


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