Tennessee voters will decide in 2014 whether or not to change how judges are seated to the state’s highest courts to a way that mirrors the federal government’s practice.
The state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Monday to ask voters to amend the constitution and allow the governor to appoint candidates the Legislature would then have to approve. Those judges would then face retention elections to renew their eight-year term.
“I think it clears up the constitutional question that we’ve had and talked about for a number of years and puts it back in the voters’ hands,” said Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) who sponsored the bill.
The House voted 78-14 to put the question to voters with no members chiming in to offer debate. It passed with a bipartisan mix of lawmakers voting against the measure.
Coined this year as the “Founding Fathers Plan,” the amendment would address concern that the state’s current method for picking judges is unconstitutional because it calls for elections.
The Tennessee Constitution details that “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State.” It also states, “The judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.”
The Senate approved the legislation easily last month, despite desires among some members in that chamber to provide for direct elections of the state’s high court judges.
“Indeed, the Founders’ Plan has broad bipartisan support, and we look forward to working with this broad coalition to ensure the ultimate adoption of the amendment in 2014,” read a statement from Tennesseans for Economic Opportunity.
The referendum is one of two voters will face in the 2014 November election. Voters will also be asked to rewrite the constitution to give the legislature power to set abortion policies. Another constitutional amendment seeking final approval in the legislature would clarify the constitution to ban an income tax.