Republicans rammed their resolution through the Senate Thursday to amend the state constitution to popularly elect the Tennessee attorney general.
Tennessee is the only state in which the Supreme Court picks the attorney general, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said that makes the office unaccountable to the voters.
Forty-three states elect their attorneys general, and the governor or legislature appoints the attorney general in the rest. Democrats argued elected attorneys general are prejudiced by political ambitions.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, said. "If it's working well, we ought to take a conservative approach. We ought to look at the tradition and the experience, and we ought to continue in that same direction."
Attorney General Bob Cooper has angered Republicans with advisory opinions that some of their bills, particularly on social issues, are unconstitutional. Notably, Cooper issued an opinion this session that GOP attempts to nullify national health care reform violated the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, which holds that federal laws supersede those of the states.
The resolution offered by Beavers, which passed the Senate by a vote of 19-14, would amend the state's constitution to allow a popular election every four years. The amendment process would require approval by both the 106th General Assembly currently in session, and the 107th, which will take office in 2011. If approved, the question would then go to voters in a statewide referendum in the year 2014.