Senate votes to allow voters to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected

A resolution allowing voters to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected was approved this week by the full Senate on Thursday.  Senate Joint Resolution 1 calls for an open nomination process by the Tennessee Supreme Court in selecting the State Attorney General, followed by a confirmation vote of the nominee by a majority of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The bill aims to provide for a more transparent process in the selection of nominees.  It also seeks to make the process accountable, giving elected officials a role in the process, while keeping intact a role for the judiciary.

Tennessee is the only state in which the State Supreme Court appoints the attorney general.  The votes taken by the court on nominees are not currently disclosed to the public. 

The resolution would require the votes of the Tennessee Supreme Court justices to be held in open court, with recorded votes. Once the nomination is made, the legislature would have sixty days to go through the confirmation process. In the event that the candidate is rejected, then the court would have 60 days to make another nomination.

Before proceeding to a vote by the people, both resolutions must be approved by a simple majority of the 111th General Assembly during the 2019-2020 sessions and by a two-thirds majority of the 112th General Assembly which will convene in 2021-2022.  Once on the ballot, constitutional amendments must receive a plurality of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.

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