Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 6:41 pm
By: AP

The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken. The Jackson Sun, July 7 When lawmakers convene in January, they’ll have another chance to renew the Tennessee Plan, the state’s method of selecting, evaluating and retaining or rejecting appellate judges. They should take it. Under the Tennessee Plan, a Judicial Selection Commission screens names and submits a list of three finalists to the governor, who makes the final choice. The commission went into a one-year wind down on July 1, since lawmakers failed to pass a law extending it. If the Tennessee Plan dies, the state would revert to popular election of judges. Efforts to get rid of the Tennessee Plan are shortsighted. Certainly, the system has flaws. That was proved two years ago, when a dispute between the governor and the commission led to litigation. But whatever flaws the system has, they are more than outweighed by the system’s advantages. Perhaps the biggest advantage offered by the Tennessee Plan is that it goes a long way toward removing politics from the process of judicial selection. If judges were forced to stand for election every four to eight years, they would spend much of their time campaigning. They would let themselves be influenced by public opinion. With the Tennessee Plan, that isn’t a consideration. Judges are free to do their jobs: interpreting the constitutionality of laws. That’s a big job that doesn’t need the distraction that campaigning would provide. Under the Tennessee Plan, voters still get a voice. That’s because they get a chance to vote on whether to retain or reject judges every eight years. That may not be the direct voice that a popular vote provides, but it still works. This is a case where the system works, and it’s better to leave well enough alone. The process of selecting the right judge is a complicated one, and it’s better to leave the decision in the hands of people who are qualified to make wise decisions for such an important position. ——— On the Net: http://www.jacksonsun.com/apps/pecs.dll/article?AID/20080707/OPINIO N/807070 303/1014 ——— On the Net: http://www.theleafchronicle.com/apps/pecs.dll/article?AID/20080702/ OPINION0 1/807020337/1014/NEWS17 ——— The Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 3 Gov. Phil Bredesen is waging a battle of passive resistance over the state’s specialty license plate issue. Since 2003, the governor has refused to sign legislation that creates new specialty plates and has urged the Legislature to reform the practice of granting the plates. At the same time, he did not veto the 2008 omnibus special license plates bill, allowing it to become law without his signature. Thus, 23 new plates could join the 121 specialty plates already being manufactured and issued. This year’s bill also allows six plates previously authorized to have an additional year to gather the 1,000 purchasers required before a plate is actually issued. Bredesen has called for reform of the practice since he has been governor — all the way back to the controversy over the “Choose Life” plate and subsequent court rulings, which eventually upheld authorization of the specialty plate. Speaking of the 2008 legislation, Bredesen said in a letter to the lawmakers, “While the organizations referenced in this bill are no doubt worthy causes, I am allowing this bill to become law without my signature in light of the broader concerns I have expressed over the past several years regarding the continuing proliferation of specialty license plates in this state.” The only difference between Bredesen’s stand this year and the one in 2004 is that, in the earlier year, he refused to sign nine bills, allowing each to become law without his signature. Since that time, legislators began putting all specialty plate requests in a single bill. That might decrease the number of vetoes, but the principle remains the same. … In 2004, then-state Rep. Jamie Woodson and then-Sen. Steve Cohen, now a U.S. representative, sponsored a bill that would have removed the Legislature from the decision-making process, instead transferring those duties to the Department of Safety. At that time, Bredesen said, “The approach of letting anyone with any message have a plate for it is silly. It could make us a laughingstock.” Perhaps we’re not a laughingstock yet, but Bredesen is correct that setting the standards for what is and is not acceptable should be an administrative and not a legislative function. Requests for the plates is an ongoing process, and with 121 from which to choose, the issue threatens to implode. Lawmakers need to look seriously at reforming the process. ——— On the Net: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/jul/03/specialty-license-plates-is sue-need s-reform/ Published in The Messenger 7.11.08

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