Proposal Supports Electing Tenn. Attorney General

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – A measure to make the office of state attorney general an elected position is advancing in the Senate despite opposition from some lawmakers who say it will breed corruption.

Currently, the attorney general is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to an eight-year term.

The proposal by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet would amend the state constitution to change the selection process for the state attorney general. Tennesseans would be able to vote on the issue in 2014.

It's headed to the Senate Finance Committee after being approved with a 5-4 vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure has a strong chance of passing this year because Republicans control the House and Senate, and every committee in both chambers is headed by a GOP member.

Beavers said electing the attorney general is needed for more accountability. Opponents of the plan are concerned it would draw corruption because of the temptation to spend large amounts of money in campaigning.

Currently, 43 states elect attorney generals. Sen. Tim Barnes said that candidates in some of those states spend millions of dollars to become elected.

"What concerns me is the amount of money it would take to run statewide for attorney general," said the Clarksville Democrat, who voted against the measure.

Democratic Sen. Beverly Marrero of Memphis, who also opposed the bill, said the current system has been very successful.

Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association, agreed.

"The system we have leads to the most objective advice the state can get and least political involvement in that advice," he said.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told the Chattanooga Times Free Press last month that electing the state's attorney general could lead to an infusion of politics into an office that should be focused on protecting the state's legal interest.

However, he said he won't oppose the Republicans' effort.

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