Posts

A map of the United States with words "We the People"

Method of Selecting the Attorney General (Senate Joint Resolution 88)

This resolution seeks to amend Article VI, Section 5 of the Tennessee Constitution to provide for appointment of the state attorney general by joint vote of the General Assembly. The Tennessee Supreme Court currently selects the attorney general.

Resolution Analysis

The purpose of the resolution is to restore a greater balance between the powers of the judicial and legislative branches of state government by creating a measure of accountability within the Office of the Attorney General. Since Supreme Court justices are no longer subject to direct election by the people for their appointment to this office, it has become largely unaccountable to anyone, much less the people, and this autonomy has effectively allowed the Attorney General’s office to become like a fourth department of state government but without any constitutional checks and balances.

Resolution Sponsor

Yager in the Senate

Resolution Status

Passed Senate, no action in the House.

Full Text: Senate Resolution

A map of the United States with words "We the People"

Right of General Assembly to Intervene in Certain Lawsuits (SB 2655/ HB 1946)

Allows the Speaker of the House and Speaker of the Senate, jointly, or a majority of the members of both houses to intervene in certain existing legal proceedings where the constitutionality of a state statute is challenged or in which “new” or novel interpretations to expand constitutional or statutory rights are being advocated.

Bill Analysis

Private litigants are increasingly calling on the courts to effectively set public policy through their advocacy for new constitutional rights and through “interpretations” of statutes based challenges to the statutes as written and enacted. This judicial activism is resulting in an erosion of the “legislative authority” delegated to the General Assembly under Article II, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution.

Joint Resolutions
The following two pieces of legislation are joint resolutions calling for the amendment of the Tennessee Constitution. In order to be successful joint resolutions must go through three steps:

  1. The resolution must pass both the House and the Senate by a majority of the members of each house.
  2.  If successful in the first step, the resolution must then pass both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority of the members of each house during the next General Assembly.
  3. Any resolution that passes that threshold will then be placed on the ballot of the next November general election which includes the race for governor.
    Both resolutions are in the first step of the process and if successful at the first two steps will appear on the November 2022 general election ballot.

Bill Sponsors

Watson in the Senate
Casada in the House

Bill Status

No action taken in the House or Senate.

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

TN flag logo and words constitutional government bills

Solicitor General Bill (SB 1240/ HB 690)

TN Senate Bill 1240 / TN House Bill 690

BILL SUMMARY

Also known as the Solicitor General Bill, this bill creates the office of solicitor general to be appointed by the Legislature and transfers all the current duties of the attorney general (except the reporting of Supreme Court cases) to the office of solicitor general. The solicitor general can be removed by a vote of 2/3 of the members of the General Assembly.

BILL ANALYSIS

In Tennessee, the attorney general is not elected. He is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, whose members are also unelected. As a result, the attorney general is essentially unaccountable to the people or their representatives.

This bill provides accountability within the state’s legal department for the defense of the Constitution, separation of powers, and federalism by allowing the policy-making body, the General Assembly, to appoint and remove the solicitor general on 2/3 vote.

BILL SPONSORS

Norris in the Senate, Goins in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

Passed the House Civil Justice Committee. No action taken in the Senate.

VIDEO

TN flag logo and words constitutional government bills

Legislator Standing Bill (SB 436 / HB 558)

BILL SUMMARY

Also, known as the Legislator Standing Bill, this bill allows the Legislature, either by the majority of both chambers or by approval by both Speakers, to do the following:

  • Initiate lawsuits against local governments to challenge local ordinances that violate state law or compel compliance with state law
  • Initiate lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality or application of federal laws
  • Intervene in lawsuits in which the constitutionality or interpretation of a state or federal law is at issue.

Any action taken under this bill will be indemnified by the state.

BILL ANALYSIS

Currently, the Legislature has no voice in the courtroom if the attorney general:

  • Refuses to take legal action to enforce a state law or challenge a federal law or,
  •  In a pending action in which private parties are seeking to have current law held unconstitutional or reinterpreted, takes a position inconsistent with or contrary to the will and intent of the Legislature.

The Legislator Standing Bill will help the Legislature defend and enforce its laws and protect itself from unconstitutional mandates under federal law or require the federal government to comply with its mandates.

BILL SPONSORS

Watson in the Senate, Carter in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

No action taken in the House or Senate.

 

TN flag logo and words constitutional government bills

Private Professional Organizations Ethics Codes (SB 449 / HB 566)

BILL SUMMARY

Requires all boards and commissions that currently implement an ethics code developed by a private professional or business association to submit any changes to those codes by those private associations for approval by the House and Senate Committee on Government Operations.

BILL ANALYSIS

This bill addresses a loophole in Tennessee law. Ethics codes and regulations on a profession can have the effect of law if they are violated. Right now, some state-created governing boards permanently adopt, in toto, ethics codes developed by private organizations, meaning that if the private organization changes its code, then state law automatically changes in Tennessee law even though the change in law was never voted on or approved by Tennessee voters or their elected representatives.

This bill restores the democratic principle that the power to create state law cannot be delegated to or exercised by outside, private organizations unaccountable to the people or their elected representatives.

BILL SPONSORS

Bell in the Senate, Howell in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

Signed by the Governor 4/28/17. Public Chapter 215.

VIDEO