Senate Gives Initial OK to Elect-the-AG Amendment

Press Release from the Republican Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, April 14, 2015:

Senate Approves Resolution by Senator Beavers to let the people decide if they want an elected Attorney General

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), April 14, 2015 — State Senators voted 23 to 9 today in favor of a resolution sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) that would allow Tennessee voters to decide if they want to popularly elect the state’s attorney general (AG). Senate Joint Resolution 63 begins the process of amending the State Constitution, which if approved, would go to voters in the 2018 general election.

“Currently, the attorney general is twice removed from those he or she is supposed to represent – the people of Tennessee,” said Senator Beavers. “Our state is tied for dead last in the number of statewide elected officials. We have only three people who are elected statewide. It is time we let the citizens have more of a say in their government.”

Unlike any other state, Tennessee’s AG is appointed by the justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court for a term of eight years. Under the Tennessee Plan and the constitutional amendment adopted by citizens in November, Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor and stand for a retention vote.

“This means you have appointees appointing the AG,” said Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), who supported the resolution.

The resolution calls for the AG to serve a six-year term, but would limit it to two consecutive terms. It 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 in 2018.

“We must have the respect for the citizens of this great state that they would be able to elect a great attorney general to uphold and defend our constitution.
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 must receive simple majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the current General Assembly, and a two-thirds majority in the next General Assembly before it goes to the people for a vote.