NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposed constitutional amendment to give lawmakers the power to select the state attorney general passed the Senate on Wednesday, even though opponents argue there's no need to change the current process.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville was approved 22-9 on Wednesday.
Under the proposal, the state attorney general would be appointed by a joint vote of both chambers of the Legislature and serve four years. Currently, attorneys general are selected by state Supreme Court justices.
Green said the change is needed to keep the attorney general's position ethically sound, even though he acknowledged he had no reason to question the position of the current attorney general.
"I have not disparaged our current attorney general," Green said. "This system that I'm proposing ... makes the attorney general someone that we in this body select just like we do the secretary of state, just like we do the comptroller, just like we do the treasurer. And those gentlemen are working very well for all branches of government."
Nevertheless, opponents of the legislation said it's unnecessary.
"There's no reason to do this," said Democratic Sen. Lowe Finney of Jackson. "I respect the attorney general, any attorney general. Even though we may not always know them or agree with them, I have no reason to suggest they are anything less than ethical."
Sen. Doug Overbey agreed.
"If it ain't broke, there simply is no need to fix it," said the Maryville Republican.
Last year, Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet failed to pass a similar measure that would have allowed the governor to appoint the attorney general and the Legislature confirm that person.
"I think that we're just trying to bring some accountability to the process," Beavers said before Wednesday's vote. "This resolution that Sen. Green has ... allows the people to vote on this."
The measure now has to pass the House during this two-year session, and the next General Assembly must approve it again by a two-thirds vote before it could be put on the ballot in 2018.