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.

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