The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday (March 4) that would allow Tennessee voters to decide if they want to popularly elect the state's attorney general (AG). Senate Joint Resolution 63, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), would begin the process of amending the State Constitution, which if approved, would go to voters in the 2018 general election.
"Tennessee is the only state in the nation in which the people have neither a direct nor indirect voice in the selection of their attorney general, and we are the only state that gives that power to our Supreme Court," said Senator Beavers.
Beavers' resolution calls for the AG to serve a six-year term, but would limit it to two consecutive terms. The resolution requires approval by the 109th General Assembly currently in session, and the 110th which will take office in 2017, before going to voters in a statewide referendum.
Beavers said that when Tennessee's Constitution was written, calling for nomination of the AG by the state's Supreme Court justices, the court was popularly elected. Forty-three states already select their attorney generals through popular election. In six other states, the AG is selected by either the popularly elected governor or the popularly elected state legislature.
"Along with the overwhelming majority of Tennesseans and 96 percent of the rest of this nation, I feel that the citizens of this state ought to have a 'say so' in the highest legal office in Tennessee," she concluded.
The bill now goes to the Senate floor where it will be heard on three readings before taking a final vote. It will then travel to the House of Representatives for approval there.