Renewed Push to Elect State’s Attorney General

Renewed Push to Elect State’s Attorney General

For some, the populist anger that has fueled the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race has tempered, maybe even terrified, their desire to let voters express their will.

The Tennessee legislature, especially the House of Representatives, often reflects the rise of populism, so it will be interesting to see what happens as it takes up a resolution that would allow voters to elect the attorney general.

In a different era, Sir Winston Churchill, who was an astute observer of democratic politics if not an unabashed admirer of democracy, wrote:

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.”

Last year, Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, introduced the resolution to amend the state constitution to fix a problem she believed the legislature created in the 1970s, and return some modicum of electoral power to the people.

“Since the adoption of the unconstitutional Tennessee Plan (which took away the popular election of appellate and Supreme Court judges), the selection of the attorney general has been two times removed from the vote of the people,” Beavers said last January, two months after voters had finally amended the constitution to make that Tennessee Plan, gubernatorial appointment and retention election of Supreme Court justices, definitively legal.

In April, her fellow senators voted 23-9 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 63, which would allow voters to elect the state’s top lawyer to a six-year term. The House Civil Justice Committee will consider the resolution next week.

The proposed amendment would eliminate a point of Tennessee political uniqueness.

Tennessee is the only state where (continue reading)

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