Committee-approved bill has legislature choose interim U.S. senators

The General Assembly, instead of the governor, would appoint a temporary replacement to a Tennessee U.S. senator who resigns or dies in office under a bill approved in a House committee Tuesday.

The bill (HB784) by Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, was approved on a  9-3 vote in the House Local Government Committee. The Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is scheduled for a Senate committee vote Wednesday.

Under provisions of the measure, the legislature would meet in joint session within two weeks after a U.S. Senate vacancy occurs and choose an interim successor, pending the next scheduled election. That’s now the governor’s responsibility. The bill says that, if a vacancy occurs while the legislature is out of session, the governor would be obliged to call a special session so the legislature could make its pick.

Further from the USA Today Network:

To fill the vacancy, a candidate, who would have to be a member of the same party as their predecessor, would be required to receive a majority of votes among the General Assembly.

Although Matthew Mundy, a legislative attorney, said questions of the bill’s constitutionality exist, Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, said he thought the legislature has passed a lot of constitutionally suspect bills since he’s been a lawmaker.

“So I say let’s move forward,” Eldridge said.

… Daniel Diorio, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said he is not aware of any other states that would allow the legislature to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

“The reason being of the clear language of the 17th Amendment,” Diorio said.

The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of each State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided that the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

One Response to Committee-approved bill has legislature choose interim U.S. senators

  • David A. Collins says:

    This is so typical of our present legislature to not be aware of the 17th Amendment to a document they all claim to be “constitutionalist” of. Most have never read the Constitution, though they cite it endlessly as their “bible” while wrapping themselves in the flag. Since the closing of Cloverbottom there is not a government owned building that houses so many mentally inferior individuals as our state capitol building.

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