03/26/2013 06:24 pm ET

Tennessee Legislators Advance Bill To Partially End Direct Election Of Senators

A Tennessee state Senate committee voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would partially end the direct election of U.S. senators in the state.

The bill would end party primaries for Senate seats and allow the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the state Legislature to pick their party's nominees for the seats. The Associated Press reported that the Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 7-1 to advance the bill to the full Senate for consideration. U.S. senators have been directly elected since 1913 -- until then, state legislatures picked all senators.

State Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), the bill's sponsor, told knoxnews.com in January that the legislation would allow for the state to have more qualified Senate candidates, along with reducing extremist candidates and easing the need to raise funds.

"We've tried it this way (contested primaries) for 100 years," Niceley told knoxnews.com. "It's time to try something different."

The bill would not apply to the 2014 election, where Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is seeking a third term. Gov Bill Haslam (R) has endorsed the current system.

Niceley is not the first lawmaker to consider a change to how U.S. senators are elected. Last year, New Hampshire lawmakers voted down a similar proposal, which then-state Rep. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia) said would partially return the country to the original intent of the Constitution. The idea of ending direct election of senators has been a favorite for conservatives and libertarians in the last decade.



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