NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to change the Tennessee Constitution to give the Legislature power to reject the governor’s appointments to the state Supreme Court cleared the House on Thursday.
The House voted 70-27 in favor of the resolution sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol. The Senate passed the measure on a 23-8 vote earlier this week.
Under the current Tennessee judicial selection method, a commission nominates appeals judges and Supreme Court justices, the governor appoints them and voters cast ballots either for or against keeping them on the bench. While the system has withstood legal challenges, critics say it conflicts with language in the state constitution that says Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.”
Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican speakers of the House and Senate earlier this year declared their support for a constitutional amendment to underscore the current system, but lawmakers preferred getting rid of the nominating panel and giving the Legislature the added power to deny the governor’s appointments within 60 days.
Haslam’s original proposal has died in the House, but the Republican governor has said he doesn’t oppose the confirmation model.
The resolution would have to be again approved by both chambers by a two-thirds majority within the next two-year General Assembly before it could be put before the voters in 2014.
Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said during the floor debate that he still plans to push for allowing contested elections of Supreme Court justices when their terms end in August 2014 — two months before any proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters. A similar proposal by Casada failed in a House committee this year.
Lundberg said he’d prefer other approaches than the one suggested by Casada.
“I would hope that when we come back next year we come up with some sort of a bridge,” he said. “I think it would confuse everyone, not only here, but on the court and frankly the people.”
The measure was approved by 50 Republicans, 19 Democrats and one independent. Fourteen Republicans and 13 Democrats voted against it.
“I think all the judges should be elected,” said Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. “I don’t understand why that’s good enough for some of the lower court judges, but it’s not good enough for the appellate judges.”
Read SJR0710 at http://capitol.tn.gov