(NASHVILLE) — A resolution allowing voters to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected was approved 25-7 on Monday evening by the Tennessee Senate. 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 resolution calls for an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to require the Supreme Court to nominate an individual in an open meeting with a recorded vote,” Yager said. “It would further require a confirmation of that nomination by the General Assembly. This retains an important role for the court in the selection process, while providing an oversight role to the General Assembly through the confirmation process. It is consistent with the intentions of the authors of our State Constitution who wanted officials directly elected by the people to have a role in the appointment.”
The 1870 constitution required Supreme Court judges be elected by Tennessee voters. 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 currently are not disclosed to the public.
“This compromise is an improvement over how Tennessee currently selects the State Attorney General,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville). “It leaves the independence of the judiciary to nominate someone, makes it more transparent in the process, and then gives that confirmation to the people through their elected representatives.”
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 now goes to the House of Representatives where it must also receive a two thirds majority. Once approved by the House, it will go to Tennessee voters in 2022 where it must receive a majority of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.