Ramsey Concedes Judges Bill Is Dead For This Year

While he insisted earlier this legislative session it was important that the state’s practice of selecting judges be made constitutional, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue this year.

“We got started late on that this year, no doubt about it,” he told TNReport. “It will have to pass next year.”

Several proposals to rejigger how judges are chosen have stalled, including one to eliminate the constitutional requirement that judges be elected.

Another proposal would have voters decide whether the state Legislature should figure out a way to hand-pick judges.

The state’s current process for picking judges, dubbed the Tennessee Plan, calls for nominees to be put forward by a selection committee, with the governor making the final appointments to the Tennessee Supreme Court and the appeals court. Judges serve eight-year terms, then face elections to retain their posts.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris predicted earlier this session that there may not be enough time to seriously consider Ramsey’s proposal, which would have started the process of amending the state constitution in line with the Tennessee Plan. The bill is in committee.

“It’s underway, but if we’re trying to get to adjournment next weekend, there’s just not enough time,” the Collierville Republican said. “We’ve got all next year as well.”

Putting constitutional amendments on the ballot is an arduous process. It requires approval from two general assemblies back-to-back, then a public vote.

Ramsey’s bill is not the only constitutional amendment tied up in the final days of the session.

Sen. Mae Beavers wants to ask voters if they’d rather elect the attorney general. The Supreme Court now makes that appointment.

She’s postponed action on the bill twice in the last week, saying she wanted to make sure she has all the votes needed to advance the proposal to the floor. It’s scheduled for another hearing Tuesday.

“I haven’t polled members. That’s one reason why I rolled it to make sure I have the votes there,” she said.