Tennessee legislators are expected to resume debate on a number of hot-button issues left unresolved from last year when the General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday.
One item that is likely to be taken up this year is a bill to change the way Tennessee picks its two members to the U.S. Senate. Before 1913, state legislatures elected members to the U.S. Senate. That changed with the adoption of the 17th Amendment, which calls for senators to be elected in each state by popular vote.
Now, some lawmakers in Nashville want to return to something much like that old system. We hope, however, calmer heads will prevail in this debate. Tennessee must not return to the days of political cronyism and partisan wheeling and dealing behind closed doors.
State Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, is sponsoring a bill that would allow members of the General Assembly to select partisan nominees for Senate in the general election.
Supporters of the proposed change say allowing the General Assembly to select party nominees would do away with the influence money often plays in such statewide races. Niceley also believes ending partisan primaries for the Senate will allow state government to regain the influence framers of the Constitution had originally intended.
While his intentions certainly sound noble, ending the current primary process will return the selection of the U.S. Senate to the corrupt, party boss system of the past. More disturbing is it would take political power away from the voters of Tennessee and give it to ranking members of the General Assembly.
Lawmakers should do us all a favor and dispatch this legislation quickly to the dust bin of bad ideas.