The Supreme Court appoints the attorney general to an eight-year term, but the proposed constitutional amendment, from state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, would allow voters to start electing the attorney general in 2020 to four-year terms.
"It just makes the attorney general more accountable to the people of Tennessee," Beavers said Tuesday morning.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, filed a resolution that calls for popular elections every eight years.
Tennessee is the only state where the state Supreme Court appoints the attorney general, said Marjorie Thorp of the National Association of Attorneys General. In comparison 43 states elect their attorney general, five states — Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming — allow the governor to appoint an attorney general, and in Maine the legislature chooses the attorney general via secret ballot, Thorp said.
Other constitutional officers in Tennessee are also not popularly elected: The General Assembly appoints the secretary of state, treasurer and comptroller.
Beavers' proposal would allow the Supreme Court to fill any vacancy that might occur before November 2020. In the fall, the Supreme Court appointed Republican Herbert Slatery as the new attorney general, replacing Robert Cooper, a Democrat.
The senator proposed the same idea last session, but it failed to make it out of the Senate. This year she didn't want to speculate on the legislation's chances, but noted voters did approve the constitutional amendment in the fall that allows legislative approval of the state Supreme Court justices after they are appointed by the governor.
"It's a long ways down the road, even if we pass it this year," Beavers said.
The General Assembly officially convened Tuesday.
Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 and on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.