Senate panel votes to let state legislators pick TN attorney general

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved on a party-line vote Tuesday a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that calls for state legislators to appoint Tennessee attorney general, now chosen by the state Supreme Court.

As the Nashville Post reports, the panel last year approved a proposed amendment that instead called for popular election of the attorney general, only to see the proposal die on the House side.

Sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), the resolution, SJR 88, passed out of the committee by a vote of 7 to 2. Sens. Sara Kyle and Lee Harris, both Memphis Democrats, were the two no votes. The measure also states that “the AG be 30 years of age or older, a citizen of the United States, an attorney duly licensed in Tennessee, and a resident of the state for at least seven years preceding the election.”

Two of the Republican committee members made it clear they were only advancing the bill as a courtesy for a floor vote, not because they supported it.

“I’m concerned with this,” said Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol). “Not only the lack of judicial input, but I think we are injecting a much greater role of politics in the attorney general selection, and that is very concerning, candidly, to me.”

Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) also voiced concerns.

“What I fear we get, if we get political in this, is we get politicians running our state’s chief litigators, rather than professional litigators and administrators who will continue to carry on the tradition we have had in the state or an attorney general … as independent as we can have in the state of Tennessee,” Stevens said.

During the committee discussion, Yager said the new process would provide “transparency” during the AG appointment process… Yager said allowing legislators to appoint the AG would ensure that the chief lawyer in the state is accountable to the people, as elected officials chosen by the people would get to pick the AG.

…”This resolution moves this antiquated process from the 19th to the 21st century,” Yager said.

10 Responses to Senate panel votes to let state legislators pick TN attorney general

  • Colonel Jackson says:

    Bad idea. The justices of the Supreme Court, who are approved by the legislators, are much more capable of selecting a well qualified Attorney General. Let’s not make AG another job for political hacks who suck up to state legislators.

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    As we have seen time and time again, the AG job entails more political discretion than expertise as an attorney. That being so, the AG should be directly chosen by a vote of the people like it is in most states. No need to inject the legislature into the process but that would be preferable to the present weird system of having the AG chosen by the Supreme Court,

  • Michael Lottman says:

    If there is anything worse than what we have now–which was criminally misrepresented and distorted last time–having the legislature elect the AG would be worse. Why not just put the office on the ballot? We’re not talking about choosing a new pope. If you want to make it different, have them run independently rather than as partisan nominees.

  • Cemoi says:

    Folks, look at how our current AG has represented, OR NOT REPRESENTED, this conservative state. Disgraceful at best! If a Liberal Supreme Court elects the AG, guess which path this AG will take, the Liberal Path and that is NOT TENNESSEE! We are a conservative state and it needs to have an AG pursuing those policies. Our current AG has agreed with the Obama Admin. more often than not even in non constitutional EO’s that Obama embarked upon very often. We can do better and we MUST DO BETTER! This is a great idea!!

  • Joyce Neal says:

    There is no need to change what is working.

  • Lance Persson says:

    Joyce, Why do you say it is working. Please be specific. I sure believe that the current AG has not supported the laws of the state.

  • Eddie White says:

    As if the selection of the AG is not political now. Do you think the state Supreme Court justices don’t have political bias? In most states the AG is elected by the people of the state,why not in Tennessee.

  • David A. Collins says:

    I think what Ms Neal means is that the current system is working because the office has never been occupied by a political hack who is more interested in seeing his name in the news and wasting taxpayer money filing lawsuits that most good first year law students would know are wastes of both time and money, but whose causes appeal to a certain group of voters who call themselves “conservative” but who do so mainly because they don’t understand what the term “reactionary” means.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Wow, that is about the longest sentence I have ever read the gist of which is that under “Collins jurisprudence” it’s only liberals who can file lawsuits attempting to achieve via activist leftist judges what they can’t achieve at the ballot box. Under “Collins jurisprudence,” Attorney Generals from conservative states, however, are somehow foreclosed from attempting to undo the work of these leftist judges.

      I’m sure, David, you will understand if the vast majority of citizens of Tennessee reject such nonsense. Unfortunately Collins jurisprudence will be all too prevalent in Tennessee until these citizens actually choose their Attorney Generals.

    • Pat Pulliam says:

      Excellent reply, David Collins. Thank you.

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