State Representative Dave Wright (R-Knoxville), the Tennessee House sponsor of legislation that would establish three-year residency requirements for Congressional and Senate candidates running in Tennessee, motioned Wednesday to roll his bill back for consideration by one week in the House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee.

Wright said he intends to amend the bill to have the three-year residency requirements, an effective date of one day after this year’s November general election, and an exemption for incumbents at the next scheduled subcommittee meeting.

At the meeting, Wright asked members of the subcommittee to comment on the legislation. Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) said his preference was for the bill to reflect the same qualifications to run for federal office as for the Tennessee General Assembly (TGA). He also said that if the requirements are good enough to institute in the future, “[TGA] should do it now.”

Several legislators asked committee counsel if this legislation would pass constitutional muster. The committee counsel said, “The passage of this bill would be constitutionally suspect. It would be ripe for a legal challenge.”

Tennessee GOP Chair Scott Golden was present at the subcommittee meeting. He stated said, “The party is absolutely in favor of residency requirements.” He also said regarding TNGOP compliance with state law, “We will do whatever the state legislature tells us to do. We play by the rules you guys set.”

Wright closed the discussion on the bill and potential amendment by motioning to roll back one week. Action on HB2764 has been deferred to the March 2 House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee meeting.

State Senator Frank Niceley (R-Church Hill) is the sponsor of the Senate version, SB2616, which the Senate State and Local Government Committee recommended for passage to the full Senate. The state Senate calendar committee is expected to schedule that version for a Senate floor vote in the near future.

The Tennessee Star previously reported the amendment Wright said he will propose is different than Niceley’s version. Niceley wants his version to prevail. Niceley previously told The Star, “Most people I’ve heard from are not in favor of changing the effective date.” Niceley expects the Senate to vote on his bill soon.

Former State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus and music video director Robby Starbuck would be ineligible to run for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district seat if SB2616 is enacted into law as is.

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office told The Star that the current latest date to finalize the ballots is April 21. If legislation affecting ballot eligibility passes, then the secretary of state’s office would amend the ballots to reflect enacted law.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Dave Wright” by Tennessee General Assembly. Background Photo “Tennessee House of Representatives” by Tennessee General Assembly.