Legislators have reached what Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris calls “the stalemate place” on how Tennessee’s top judges should be selected and are now racing to delay a decision until next year.
After a convoluted series of events, the Senate now has before it two different proposals for amending the state constitution. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he now hopes lawmakers will approve both before adjourning the 2012 session, probably in two weeks.
If that happens, lawmakers can pick up the stalemate next year and try to resolve it then. If not, the inaction will apparently mean no change in the status quo until at least 2018.
The two competing proposals are:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has approved a bill to make the names of applicants to lead public colleges and universities confidential.
The chamber voted 79-12 on Thursday in favor of the measure that the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, said he introduced on behalf of the University of Tennessee’s board of trustees.
McCormick said the bill would encourage more candidates to apply for the jobs without fear of hurting their current employment. The names of the three finalists would become public at least 15 days before a decision is made about who gets the job, up from seven days in the original version.
The Senate would have to agree to that change before the measure can head for the governor’s consideration.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When the top three Republicans in the Statehouse coalesced behind a plan to cement Tennessee’s current selection process for Supreme Court justices into the state constitution, there seemed to be a smooth path ahead for getting the measure before voters in 2014.
Two months later, their proposal has made little progress as some Republican lawmakers have embraced a rival proposal, while others want to allow contested elections to take place.
A proposal is advancing in the Legislature to impose a federal-style system of having the governor make nominations to the high court’s bench, and then giving lawmakers the power to confirm or reject them. Meanwhile, the sponsor of another bill calling for the popular election of appeals judges in August 2014 says he is still advocating for the measure that could come up for a key House committee vote in the next two weeks.
Fifty-five Tennessee delegates to the Republican National Convention will be chosen in Tuesday’s statewide voting, while the state’s 91 delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be chosen through a convention procedure.
Republicans thus have several potential decisions to make on the statewide ballot as they choose between both presidential candidates and delegates.
Democrats on the other hand have only one candidate on the presidential primary ballot — Barack Obama — and no delegate decisions.
In the GOP process, 55 of the 58 total Tennessee delegates will be bound to vote on the first two convention ballots for a designated presidential candidate. The three exceptions are state Chairman Chris Devaney, National Committeeman John Ryder and National Committeewoman Peggy Lambert — all who get their delegate slots automatically by virtue of their position. Under party rules, they are free to vote for anyone they wish.
Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey declared Wednesday they will jointly push an amendment to the Tennessee constitution to legitimize the state’s current system for selecting top judges.
“There have been so many discussions on this, I think there’s a need for finality and clarity,” said Haslam, who has previously been cool toward calling for a constitutional amendment on the topic. So has Harwell.
If approved by the Legislature, which would appear likely with Harwell and Ramsey as supporters, the proposed constitutional amendment would be placed before voters for final approval in 2014, the year Haslam will be up for reelection.
The joint plan calls for leaving the present system in place unchanged between now and 2015, when the constitutional amendment would presumably be in place.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Site Selection magazine lists Tennessee as having the eighth best business climate in the country this year — the state’s lowest ranking since 2002.
The ranking is based on taxes, new and expanded business facility activity and a survey of corporate site selectors. Ahead of Tennessee, in order, were Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Indiana and Louisiana.
The magazine gave the state the nation’s second-best rating in 2010, the last year of Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s two terms in office. He was succeeded by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in January.
The magazine provides expansion planning information to 44,000 executives. The ratings were announced Tuesday and are published in the November issue.
Tennessee placed 15th in 2002, the last year of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s administration.