Bredesen: Letting publicelect lieutenant governor 'not a bad idea at all'

Hank Hayes • Mar 10, 2007 at 11:45 AM

Proposed legislation to elect Tennessee's lieutenant governor is "not a bad idea at all," Gov. Phil Bredesen said.

Tennessee's new political landscape emerged in January when Republican Ron Ramsey of Blountville broke a 138-year streak of Democratic lieutenant governors by ousting longtime Lt. Gov. John Wilder, D-Mason, for the position during a Senate election.

Although Democrats still control the House, Ramsey and Senate Republicans now have a majority in committees, and they have a major say in bills that either become law or are killed.

Under Tennessee's Constitution, the Senate's lieutenant governor is also the Senate speaker and stands in immediate succession to the governor if necessary.

A resolution filed by Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, is calling for a constitutional amendment to elect the lieutenant governor at the same time and for the same term as governor.

Currently, it takes the votes of 17 senators to be elected speaker and lieutenant governor of the 33-member Senate.

Bredesen indicated he did not favor a popular election for either the state's Supreme Court justices or its constitutional officers.

"I think we would dramatically change the nature of those jobs which have been handled very well in our state. But having a lieutenant governor popularly elected, I don't have a problem with that at all," said the governor, who is in his second term in office.

To become law, constitutional amendments must pass in two consecutive two-year General Assemblies and must be approved by voters in a gubernatorial election year. The next gubernatorial election is in 2010. If voters approved the change, 2014 would be the first possible year lieutenant governor candidates could stand for election, according to Haynes' resolution.

For more information go to www.legislature.state.tn.us and click on "Legislation." The resolution's number is SJR129.

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