Feb 16, 2022 - Politics

Residency requirement bill advances

The Tennessee Senate chamber.

The Tennessee Senate chamber. Photo: George Walker IV/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

Legislative efforts to set a three-year residency requirement for candidates in congressional primaries cleared an important early hurdle yesterday despite lingering constitutional questions.

  • A state Senate committee approved the bill, moving it one step closer to a floor vote in that chamber.

Why it matters: Debate surrounding the bill previews themes likely to emerge as the bill advances in the General Assembly.

  • Legislative attorney Josh Houston told lawmakers in the Senate State and Local Government Committee that other states' efforts to add requirements for congressional offices have been deemed unconstitutional.
  • But some lawmakers questioned if applying regulations only to partisan primaries rather than the general election might shift the legal analysis.

By the numbers: Five lawmakers on the committee voted to move the legislation forward, with one against and one person present not voting.

  • The members voting in favor included three Republicans and two Democrats. One Republican voted against the measure.

Between the lines: The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), would directly affect current candidates in the Republican primary running to represent the newly redrawn 5th congressional district.

  • Candidates Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck would not meet the proposed residency requirement.
  • Ortagus said she would "leave state matters to the state legislature," while Starbuck framed the bill as an unfair effort to drive him from the race.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note those voting in favor of the bill included three Republicans and two Democrats, not four Republicans and one Democrat.


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