Senate takes first step toward electing attorney general

Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 11:24am

Republicans rammed their resolution through the Senate Thursday to amend the state constitution to popularly elect the Tennessee attorney general.

Tennessee is the only state in which the Supreme Court picks the attorney general, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said that makes the office unaccountable to the voters.

Forty-three states elect their attorneys general, and the governor or legislature appoints the attorney general in the rest. Democrats argued elected attorneys general are prejudiced by political ambitions.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, said. "If it's working well, we ought to take a conservative approach. We ought to look at the tradition and the experience, and we ought to continue in that same direction."

Attorney General Bob Cooper has angered Republicans with advisory opinions that some of their bills, particularly on social issues, are unconstitutional. Notably, Cooper issued an opinion this session that GOP attempts to nullify national health care reform violated the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which holds that federal laws supersede those of the states.

The resolution offered by Beavers, which passed the Senate by a vote of 19-14, would amend the state's constitution to allow a popular election every four years. The amendment process would require approval by both the 106th General Assembly currently in session, and the 107th, which will take office in 2011. If approved, the question would then go to voters in a statewide referendum in the year 2014.

12 Comments on this post:

By: Anna3 on 4/22/10 at 10:47

Bob Cooper seemed to find the "Supremecy Clause" easily...ut couldn't seem to find the part of the Constitution addressing States soverenty could he?
We definitely need an AG that listens to the people rather than Washington DC or the Democratic Party.

By: idgaf on 4/23/10 at 3:07

And one that will investigate corrupt judges.

By: govskeptic on 4/23/10 at 5:59

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it", is as old fashion as the author.
It is broken and this office has been useless for most citizens
of this state for many yrs. This office only acts "after the horse
has left the barn" on most matters for far too long. It needs
to be changed/fixed as soon as possible! Hopefully the
House will follow suit.

By: TonyGottlieb on 4/23/10 at 7:23

You Go! Sen. Mae Beaver
Someone finally who isn't afraid to call it into account.

The canons of Judicial Ethics state that a recusal is necessary when there is an "APPEARANCE" of impropriety.

The TN Optometric Association PAC could help and donate some in-kind "campaign contributions" to members of the State's judiciary.

Many on the bench are having problems with their eyesight.

-Tony Gottlieb

By: rot on 4/23/10 at 7:27

It's about time. Good for Senator Beaver, maybe the best and surely the most physically conservative legislator we have. Keep up the good work.

By: EDUNITED on 4/23/10 at 7:29

The current system is one of political ambition flying under the radar. It doesn't guarantee "objectivity" or quality. It does guarantee that Democrats could appoint their man. Better to have an Ego on Parade, than one obscured from the light. Transparency sheds light on all the candidate's warts.

Ed vanVoorhees

By: ButchMorton on 4/23/10 at 8:20

If you've ever lived in a state where the AG is elected, you will know that AG stands for "Aspiring Governor" which is what you'll get. You'll have an AG more interested in running for office or making a name for him/herself, an "activist" attorney general if you will. Tennessee's current system is respected for choosing honest, intelligent attorney generals who are focused on the law and not on which way the wind is blowing. Keep it the way it is.

By: on 4/23/10 at 8:31

Now, if all of us who vote will just do our job and scrutinize the candidates before voting, this will be an improvement. We do get the kind of gov't we deserve.

By: pswindle on 4/23/10 at 10:31

Hey, Mae not so fast. Are you trying to make the South rise again? I wonder why?

By: free thinker on 4/23/10 at 10:33

I have lived in states where the attorney general is elected. It is very bad news for Tennessee to do so. I don't want any AG to be answerable to People or the Politicians! An AG is expected to answer to the LAW, whether you, I, or some elected individual likes it or not!

By: ddeere on 4/23/10 at 12:04

The AG is the "Chief Law Enforcement authority" in the state and as such MUST be independent. Rocky Top, Tennessee Waltz and the exclusion of the THP & TBI, unequivocally, testify to the problem of "appointed" AG's. Certainly Cooper's refusal to protect State sovereignty via the 10th Amendment and egregious erosion by unprecedented expansion of the interstate commerce clause as presented by ObamaCare is a current case in point. With 43 States electing their AG, I believe I know who is the “outlier!” Regarding the “political dimension” of an elected AG, interesting a national expert at the University of Virginia just addressed that topic in an article today and discredited via the actual “facts!”

By: on 4/23/10 at 2:08

I have lived in states that elect attorneys general, also. I've seen positive and negative results. Again, it all depends on how well the voters scrutinize the backgrounds of the candidates persuing the office. The AG depends on the person holding the office.