Opinions Differ On Tennessee Constitutional Amendments On November Ballot

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Tennesseans will have the opportunity to vote on four state constitutional amendments in November. Presented as “yes” or “no” questions, the proposed amendments will appear on the ballot below the candidates running for the governor’s race.

While the amendments are presented in a solely positive fashion by the powers that be, some concerned Tennesseans have voiced concerns.

Following is what proponents and critics say about each of the four amendments.

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Amendment 1 – Constitutional Right To Work

Summary:

This amendment would add a new section to article XI of the Tennessee Constitution to make it illegal for any person, corporation, association, or the State of Tennessee or its political subdivisions to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person because of the person’s membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.

Proponents: 

‘Right-to-work’ guarantees that workers cannot be fired or penalized for joining or refusing to join a union.

In right-to-work states like Tennessee, no one can be forced to pay union dues in order to get or keep their job. But in states that don’t protect right-to-work, employees can be forced to pay union dues even if they don’t want to be part of the union.

Governor Bill Lee and former Governor Bill Haslam are leading the campaign for Amendment 1. They shared their support in this video and encouraged voters not to skip the issue on the ballot. 

Right-to-work has been the policy of Tennessee for 75 years and the benefits have been demonstrated in more jobs at higher wages thanks to the state’s favorable business environment. Studies show that right-to-work states have higher real income and employment growth than non-right-to-work states.

Yes on 1 gives Tennessee’s right-to-work law extra protection in the state constitution, ensuring that Tennessee workers are constitutionally guaranteed their right to choose to join a union or not to join.

Critics:

Former Republican candidate for the Tennessee House of Representative Hal Rounds raises concerns about the section –  “…deny … employment to any person by reason of the person’s membership in, affiliation with, … any labor union or employee organization.”  

The concern is that an employee organization could include a fundamental purpose that is opposed to the purpose of the prospective employer.  For example, an employer is “Right to Life, Inc,’ and the “employee organization” is “Abortion Advocates Club.”; or the business is “Electrical Construction Contractors, Inc;”, and the applicant is the team leader of the “Electrical Workers Union Strike Team.”

Gary Humble of Tennessee Stands believes that the amendment deserves a bit of review before Tennesseans head to the polls. He presents his concerns in this Op-ed.

Joanna Martin, J.D., who blogs under the pseudonym ‘Publius Huldah’ writes, “The purpose of Constitutions is to create governments and to define the powers of the government. In Constitutions, a free and prudent People don’t normally impose limitations or requirements on themselves! The ‘hook’ in the proposed amendment is ‘any labor union’. The proposed amendment would prohibit small private business owners from declining to hire people because of their affiliations. If I were operating a private school, I would not hire as a Teacher anyone who was a member of a Teachers Union. These Teachers’ Unions have been instrumental in corrupting the minds and morals of our Children; but this proposed amendment would not permit a private school owner to deny them employment in their private school! And think of what could be encompassed by “employee organization”! What if Satanists form an “employee organization”? This proposed Amendment would prohibit anyone from declining to hire a member of the Satanist “employee organization”! Private businesses must have the freedom to hire or not to hire as they deem best.”

Amendment 2 – Providing For An Acting Governor When The Elected Governor Is Unable To Fulfill The Duties Of The Office

Summary: 

This amendment would add to article III, section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution a process for the temporary exercise of the powers and duties of the governor by the Speaker of the Senate—or the Speaker of the House if there is no Speaker of the Senate in office—when the governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor. While a Speaker is temporarily discharging the powers and duties of the governor, the Speaker would not be required to resign as Speaker or to resign as a member of the legislature; but the Speaker would not be able to preside as Speaker or vote as a member of the legislature. A Speaker who is temporarily discharging the powers and duties of the governor would not get the governor’s salary but would get the Speaker’s salary.  The amendment would also exempt a Speaker who is temporarily discharging the powers and duties of the governor from provisions in the Constitution that would otherwise prohibit the Speaker from exercising the powers of the governor and from simultaneously holding more than one state office.

Proponents:

Proponents point out that Tennessee is the only state in the union that doesn’t provide for a temporary acting governor in their state constitution and that a procedure should be in place should the Governor not be able to perform his duties.

Critics: 

Hal Rounds raises concerns that the amendment’s language does not provide for a procedure for a temporary Governor’s status and the powers associated with it to be drawn to a close.

Joanna Martin J.D. writes, “Why do they want to change the existing language to track the provisions of Sections 3 & 4 of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution? Do you remember the chatter, during the Trump Administration, about invoking the 25th Amendment to oust Trump from Office? In the event Tennessee ever gets an honest Governor who obeys the Constitution; would these proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution be used to oust that Governor?”

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Amendment 3: Eliminating Involuntary Servitude Exemption While Allowing Inmate Labor

Summary:

This amendment would change the current language in article I, section 33 of the Tennessee Constitution, which says that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a person who has been duly convicted of crime, are forever prohibited in this State. The amendment would delete this current language and replace it with the following language: “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited. Nothing in this section shall prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.”

Proponents: 

The amendment is sponsored by Democrat Senator Raumesh Akbari who said, “Our constitution should reflect our values, and it’s important that we not have any loopholes that will say in any circumstance slavery is permissible. I think it’s an ugly part of our history that needs to be completely put to bed.”

Critics:

Hal Rounds argues that the “permissive wording” of allowing the inmate to work does not establish a compulsory power of the prison to utilize the inmate to work, either as a rehabilitative activity, or as a utilization of the inmate’s abilities in work useful to the prison or the community.

Senator Joey Hensley (R-District 28-Hohenwald) who voted against the amendment said, “Tennessee’s Constitution has expressly prohibited slavery since it was first adopted 1870, so it’s unnecessary to add this amendment to the state constitution. It will only confuse Tennessee voters by leading them to believe slavery is allowed under the current constitution, which it is not.”

Joanna Martin J.D. writes, “Why do they want to change the existing wording? What’s their agenda? What would the Amendment allow which the existing language of Article I, Section 33 prohibits? When I was a child, my Father told me of black men who had been arrested and put to work for private Citizens who got their Labor for free. It is fine for able-bodied convicted persons to be put to work on public projects, such as picking up trash on the sides of roads; but it is wicked to permit convicts to be put to work to enrich private interests. We would do well to remember that such was done to Prisoners in NAZI Germany. Whenever existing language in a Constitution is changed, the entire body of pre-existing court Opinions construing that existing language is done away with. And Courts can start afresh with a new interpretation of the new provision. The proposed Amendment would permit Courts to say that convicts may be put to work to benefit private interests.”

Amendment 4: Allows Religious Leaders To Serve In The Tennessee General Assembly

Summary:

This amendment would delete article IX, section 1 of the Tennessee Constitution, which prohibits ministers of the gospel and priests of any denomination from holding a seat in either House of the legislature.

Proponents:

Hal Rounds writes,The amendment conforms to Article VI, of the federal Constitution which states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  This part of the clause is ambiguous because it says “… under the United States,” not including the earlier part, which obligates all officials “both of the United States and of the several States” to take and obey the oath to the Constitution.  (“several” is the word used then to express or include what we would use the word “separate” for – an individual state.”  But I think Tennessee should get rid of that religious test section, which this amendment would do.”

Critics:

Joanna Martin J.D. writes, “In the early days of our Republic (and before that while we were Colonies), states had their own “established religions” [i.e., tax-supported Churches] and, as in Connecticut, members of one denomination [Baptists] were forced to pay support to the Established Church of the State [the Congregational Church]. Protestant controlled state legislatures often discriminated against Roman Catholics. Our own History shows the excellent reason for disqualifying clergymen from State Legislatures. So why do they want to delete Article IX, § 1? What would the deletion permit? For starters, deletion would permit Ministers of the Church of Satan, clerics of religions antithetical to our Constitution, and such like, to be Members of the State Legislature.” 

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

9 thoughts on “Opinions Differ On Tennessee Constitutional Amendments On November Ballot

  • October 17, 2022 at 1:12 pm
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    Thank you for this balanced article on the proposed amendments. Personally, I don’t see how these amendments to the constitution solve any problems, and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

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  • October 17, 2022 at 5:04 pm
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    I find much of the wording confusing and most of this changing is not seeming to be necessary, the only one I see as useful is keeping Tennessee a right to work state, because; unions demand that those in the unions vote as they are told to do. Voting is a scared right of the citizens of this country . Unions support political candidates, I oppose that behavior. ,

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    • October 18, 2022 at 11:53 pm
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      Most Unions allow members deciding for a portion of the dues to be or not to be used for political contributions. I was in IBEW and chose not to contribute to Democrats. There was not a choice to contribute to any other political affiliation.

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    • October 20, 2022 at 11:32 pm
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      I worked in unions, they are nothing but a fundraising arm of the Democratic party, but when I went into the voting booth I never voted for a democrat. Federal laws have given unions alot of power to organize. Many unions are “closed shops”, which means everyone pays union dues.

      Reply
  • October 17, 2022 at 10:04 pm
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    With all the legal terminology, hiring a lawyer seems to be necessary for everyday living in the USA. Doesn’t anyone else find this disturbing? Constantly rewording of Constitutional law just keeps lawyers employed.

    Reply
  • November 4, 2022 at 8:09 pm
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    Regarding Amendment 4: a libertarian would agree that the clergy by profession should not be restrained from holding political offices. As citizens why should there be limitations put on their choice to run for dogcatcher, mayor, or president? But I feel that the separation of church and state that the Founders believed in is fundamental. Remember, if you vote for this amendment, you are welcoming in members of all clergies, even those religions that are the antithesis of your beliefs. I urge fellow Conservatives to vote against Amendment 4.

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    • November 6, 2022 at 7:51 pm
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      Those religions antitheses of my beliefs already believe it’s OK to lie about anything, including their own religion, if it advances their religion. All this is doing is keeping out the good ones. I plan to vote yes for Amendment 4.

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    • November 7, 2022 at 10:13 pm
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      I understand the concern of allowing in a candidate let’s say “church of satan” which would be the opposite of my beliefs. However, my understanding of the Founding
      Fathers was not to “separate government from religion” but to “limit government from intruding on religion.” I am all for all religious candidates running knowing that we can vote in who we believe to be the most qualified candidate.

      I am voting yes and future church of satan candidates should know they will not have my vote. Having said that I also will not cast
      my vote for a local pastor who may not be the best candidate.

      Reply
  • November 7, 2022 at 11:02 pm
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    Thank you for the straight “no frills” explanation with pros and cons for these amendments.

    Reply

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