Haslam’s Constitutional Amendment Advances Amid Criticism

Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to constitutionally cement the way Tennessee judges are appointed came in for criticism in a House committee today. The bill moved forward on a split vote of 9 to 6.

Right now judges are appointed by the governor. Every eight years they face a simple up-or-down vote, which the state Supreme Court says meets Tennessee’s constitutional requirement that judges be elected. But not everyone thinks so. To quiet the dissenters, Haslam wants to amend the constitution to enshrine the current system.

Republican Rick Womick, of Rutherford County, argues that wouldn’t be needed if the current system were legit.

“Even the governor in his press conference when he came forth with this, admitted that the way we’re doing it now is unconstitutional, and that’s why he submitted this, to make the way we’re doing it now, constitutional. The constitution says the Supreme Court justices are to be elected, that’s what I believe is the right way to do it, we should go back to that.”

Womick voted against the bill alongside five Democrats. Both speakers in the Republican-controlled legislature say they’re for the amendment. They’ll have to finish passing it in the next month or so to get it on a statewide ballot in 2014.

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The measure, HJR 753, passed on a roll call vote in the House Judiciary Committee, 9-6.

Gov. Haslam proposed the amendment in late January. It immediately drew fire from opponents, and some help from his party.


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