The Tennessee Senate has approved a bill creating creating three-year residency requirements for candidates seeking to run in primaries for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The vote was 31-1.

State Senator Frank Niceley (R-Church Hill) is the sponsor of the Senate version that was approved, SB2616.

The version that passed the Senate states:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2, Chapter 13, Part 2, is amended by adding the following as a new section:

In order to qualify as a candidate in a primary election for United States senate or for member of the United States house of representatives, a person shall meet the residency requirements for state senators and representatives contained in the Tennessee constitution.

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it

The residency requirement for candidates for the Tennessee General Assembly is that they must be residents for three years to in order to run for the state House or the state Senate.

The legislation will now head to the state House, where that body will face a decision on whether to pass Niceley’s version or to pass a different version and move into a conference committee composed of members of the Senate and the House.

Previously reported, State Representative Dave Wright (R-Knoxville), the Tennessee House sponsor, motioned at the last meeting to roll his bill back for consideration by one week in the House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee. The state House version is now on the subcommittee calendar for March 2, 2022.

Wright intends to amend the House 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. Niceley’s version that passed the Senate would affect this year’s primaries, including the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District.

The difference in effective dates between the bills has been the subject of much contention as it could affect the Republican candidate field in the Republican primary for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District. Niceley’s version would take effect immediately after becoming law.

If Senator Niceley’s Senate-passed version is indeed enacted into law, it would render former State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus ineligible to run in the TN-5 Republican primary. Ortagus has only been registered to vote in Tennessee for three months. Ortagus has said of the pending legislation, “I’ll leave state matters to the state legislature. I’m focused on earning the support of 5th-district Tennesseans who want a conservative fighter to defend President Trump’s agenda.”

California native Robby Starbuck would likely be ineligible to run in the GOP TN-5 primary as well.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Frank Niceley” by Tennessee General Assembly.