Commission may fill Senate seat Tuesday

Thursday, December 7, 2017

County commissioners will decide Tuesday night whether they want to fill the vacant 14th District State Senate seat, and if they decide to fill it they'll have an opportunity to do so that night.

State Sen. Jim Tracy resigned in November to take a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A special election will be held next year to fill the last two years of Tracy's term with party primaries on Jan. 25 and the general election on March 13.

But the legislature goes back into session in January, and the question is whether or not to appoint an interim senator as a caretaker who can represent the district's interests for those first two months of the legislative session.

Right to appoint

Even though the 14th District includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore and part of Rutherford counties, Bedford County -- Tracy's home county -- has the right to appoint an interim successor who will serve until the special election. The county is not required to do so; it can leave the seat vacant.

The commission's rules and legislative committee met on Nov. 21 and took no action on filling the vacancy, with some speakers saying it was a good idea and others opposed. But two commissioners, Jimmy Woodson and Billy King, signed a request to place the matter on the full commission's December agenda anyway. Commission rules allow any two members to place an item directly onto the full commission's agenda.

How it works

County Attorney John T. Bobo wrote a letter, dated Tuesday, to county commissioners outlining the legal process for making the appointment. One commissioner provided a copy of the letter to the Times-Gazette.

According to Bobo, citizens can suggest themselves or someone else to the commission for consideration. But actual nominations can only be made by county commissioners during the county commission meeting. A commissioner can make more than one nomination. No second is required. If the person being nominated is not present, the commissioner making the nomination should have a signed statement that the person is willing to serve.

The commission can vote Tuesday night or can defer action if it sees fit.

Suggestions

Bobo then made some procedural suggestions -- not legal requirements -- for how that vote should take place. Bobo suggested that each nominee should be given two minutes to speak. If no nominee receives a majority on the first vote, the nominee receiving the least amount of votes would be eliminated and a second vote would be taken. If there's a tie for the least-vote position, Bobo says both nominees should be eliminated, unless that would leave fewer than two nominees.

If the commission can't produce a majority after three rounds of votes, Bobo said that a commissioner may request, or the chairman may determine, that the next vote would be postponed until the next scheduled commission meeting.