Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment To Change How Tennessee Attorney General Is Selected

Senate Joint Resolution 1 Calls For Both Chambers Of The General Assembly To Confirm The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Nomination For Attorney General Rather Than Allowing The High Court To Appoint The Attorney General Through A Secret Vote Of Justices. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo: Tennessee Senators Ken Yager and Mike Bell

Photo Credit: tn.gov

Published March 10, 2021

The Center Square [By Jason Schaumburg] –

An amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that changes how the state’s attorney general is selected has passed the Senate for a second time.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 calls for both chambers of the General Assembly to confirm the Tennessee Supreme Court’s nomination for attorney general rather than allowing the high court to appoint the attorney general through a secret vote of justices. The attorney general is appointed to an eight-year term.

Tennessee is the only state where the attorney general is appointed by the supreme court.

“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,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chair Ken Yager, R-Kingston, who sponsored the resolution. “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,” Yager said. “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 Tennessee Legislature would have 60 days to go through the confirmation process once the court makes the nomination. If the nominee is rejected by the Legislature, the court would have 60 days to make another nomination.

“This compromise is an improvement over how Tennessee currently selects the State Attorney General,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said. “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.”

The resolution passed the Senate on Monday, 25-7. It now goes to the House for consideration for a second time.

Amending the Tennessee Constitution requires two approvals by both legislative chambers in the General Assembly – once by simple majority and again by two-thirds majority after an election – before going to voters for approval during the next gubernatorial election.

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About the Author:

Jason Schaumburg, The Center Square Regional Editor

Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.

3 thoughts on “Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment To Change How Tennessee Attorney General Is Selected

  • March 10, 2021 at 4:39 pm
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    This is a common sensical move by the Tennessee legislature, especially, given the fact that we are the ONLY state that allows the state supreme court to select our AG! The Tennessee AG needs to be accountable to the people’s representative not a handful of judges!

    Reply
  • March 10, 2021 at 5:04 pm
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    Teachers alone should not have the finial and only authority on this matter.
    There should be parent teacher conference and other options available.
    Removing busts and statues is not the way to have an open discussion on our history.
    This is an attempt to silence the truth and rewrite a false history. Teach our children the truth.

    Reply
  • June 24, 2021 at 4:47 pm
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    While this bill is a modicum of an improvement over the current status, this bill does not correct the problem of the state supreme court usurping the authority that was given to the people in our 2nd state constitution to elect the supreme court judges and the AG. We are still allowing the state’s highest court to choose their own adversary? They should have no voice in the process. We need to bring back the bill that Mark Pody and Mae Beavers ran 4 years ago that passed the senate and failed in the house—to allow the people to elect their own AG—the same as they do in 43 other states. If in fact this is the people’s government, then the people should vote on who they wish to defend the laws that they approve for our legislators to pass. We need to ditch the Tennessee Plan that was passed that circumvented our authority to vote on supreme court justices. Now we only get to give them a yes or no approval which is not voting for anyone, just approval of the judges chosen for us?

    Reply

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