04/02/2013 05:07 pm ET

Frank Niceley, Tennessee State Senator, Delays Vote On Bill To Change U.S. Senate Elections

A vote on Tennessee legislation to require U.S. Senate candidates to be nominated by the state legislature was delayed Monday by the bill's own Republican sponsor following bipartisan criticism.

State Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) asked the Senate to delay a final vote on his proposal until Thursday, the last day of the legislative session, knoxnews.com reported. Niceley's request came after state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron claimed that the bill would "steal the people’s right to vote" and state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) slammed the bill.

Under Niceley's proposal, which he introduced in February, party nominees for U.S. Senate seats would be chosen by state legislators and then advance to the statewide election. Niceley said at the time it would save money by leading to shorter elections. Until the adoption of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution a century ago, state legislatures appointed all U.S. senators. The Tennessee bill that would return the state to legislature-appointed nominees was passed by a state Senate committee last month.

“This bill is anti-democratic. This bill smells of elitism and cronyism. It would open a system that could in the future be ripe for corruption,” Kelsey said in the floor debate over the bill.

The bill, as written, would not include the 2014 U.S. Senate election and would not impact Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has endorsed the current system for electing members of Congress from Tennessee.

Niceley told his colleagues that the bill needed to pass since similar proposals were pending in Arizona, Louisiana and Wyoming, and doing so would allow Tennessee to be the first state such a measure. Last year, New Hampshire lawmakers voted down a similar proposal. Then-New Hampshire state Rep. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia) told HuffPost at the time that the proposal would return the state to the "original intent" of the Constitution.



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