Push To Let Voters Pick State Attorney General Falls Short In Tennessee Senate

Members of Tennessee's Supreme Court are appointed by the governor, and in turn appoint the state's attorney general, leading critics to complain the role is "twice-removed" from popular election. (Photo: Reading Tom, via flickr)

Members of Tennessee’s Supreme Court are appointed by the governor, and in turn appoint the state’s attorney general, leading critics to complain the role is “twice-removed” from popular election. (Photo: Reading Tom, via flickr)

A proposal to popularly elect the attorney general was narrowly defeated in the state Senate today.  Right now Tennessee’s top lawyer is appointed by the state Supreme Court.

The attorney general has sometimes drawn fire from lawmakers for deeming legislation unconstitutional.  In recent years he turned down calls to fight the Affordable Care Act.  But arguing in defense of the current system Wednesday, one senator invoked the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The measure ultimately fell two votes short, with several members not voting, to the disappointment of its main supporter, Sen. Mae Beavers.

“You know, whatever.  There’s still time to bring it back again in the next legislature, and then come back the next year.  It’s a long ways down the road.  But I wanted to get the option out there for the people to vote.”

To change the constitution, Sen. Beavers’ proposal would’ve ultimately required a statewide vote several years from now.  A competing proposal would instead leave selecting an attorney general up to state lawmakers.

While more senators voted in favor of Sen. Beavers' proposal than against it, the measure fell short of the 17-vote threshold to pass, with several members simply not voting on it. (Screen capture via capitol.tn.gov)

While more senators voted in favor of Sen. Beavers’ proposal than against it, the measure fell short of the 17-vote threshold to pass, with several members simply not voting on it. (Screen capture via capitol.tn.gov)

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