Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, March 29, 2011:
(Nashville) — Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey today cast the tie-breaking vote to advance a bill requiring the election of all judges in the State of Tennessee, including appellate and Supreme Court justices. The 4 to 4 tie occurred in Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee meeting on Senate Bill 127. Lt. Governor Ramsey broke the tie by voting in favor of the bill.
Ramsey took the step because he believes state constitution currently demands that judges “shall be elected” in the state of Tennessee.
“It is clear that we need judicial reform in Tennessee,” said Ramsey. “I don’t necessarily think that electing judges is best for the state in the long term but the constitution is the constitution and the constitution clearly states that judges shall be elected.”
The state currently operates under the “Tennessee Plan” which allows the governor to appoint judges from a select list of candidates from a nominating commission. Judges then stand for what is called a “retention election” where votes make a yes or no decision on whether a judge keeps their job. While the constitutionality of the plan has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, many legal scholars dispute the ruling.
“My hope is that my actions today will spur those who recognize the need for reform to craft a constitutional judicial solution in an expeditious manner,” Ramsey continued. “Either we change the constitution or we change the Tennessee Plan. Sooner or later, this has to be addressed. I prefer sooner.”
The last time Lt. Gov. Ramsey entered a committee to break a tie was in 2009. Senate Bill 127 moves next to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.