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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
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.
Amendment 1: Constitutional Right to Work
The state’s right-to-work law has been in place since 1947 and allows Tennesseans to elect whether they would like to join a union. Without this law in place, unions could require membership as a condition of employment.
Adding it to the state’s constitution would make the policy significantly harder to overturn in the future should Republicans lose the supermajority they currently enjoy in the legislature.
Amendment 1 is opposed by the Tennessee AFL-CIO and Tennessee Democratic Party. There has also been a federal effort to repeal state right-to-work laws by way of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act which was passed by Congress with the support of President Joe Biden.
Governor Bill Lee and former Governor Bill Haslam have given partial credit to the state’s right-to-work law for Tennessee’s strong economy and job growth. Their “Yes on 1” effort to campaign for the amendment has been supported by more than 50 members of the general assembly. Republican Senator Todd Gardenhire from Chattanooga was the lone member of the GOP to oppose the proposed amendment.
Amendment 2: Providing for an acting governor when the elected governor is unable to fulfill the duties of the office
Tennessee is the only state in the union that doesn’t provide for a temporary acting governor in their state constitution.
This amendment would allow the governor to provide a written, signed declaration to the Speaker of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and Secretary of State saying that they are unable to perform the powers and duties of the office.
The Speaker of the Senate – who also serves as the Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee – would then serve as acting governor until the governor provides written, signed documentation that they can again perform the office’s powers and duties.
A majority of the commissioners of the administrative departments of the Executive Department would also be able to submit a written, signed declaration stating that the governor is unable to perform his official duties.
The Speaker of either the House or Senate will be allowed to continue serving in their respective positions while also serving as acting governor, but they would be prohibited from receiving the governor’s salary, presiding as the speaker or voting in the Tennessee General Assembly while fulfilling the governor’s duties.
Amendment 3: Eliminating involuntary servitude exemption while allowing inmate labor
This amendment will change the current language 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 deletes this current language and replaces 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.”
Amendment 4: Allows Christian leaders to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly
This amendment deletes 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.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tennessee’s ban as unconstitutional in 1978 and it has not been enforced.
In order for your vote on the proposed constitutional amendments to count, you must vote in the governor’s race – even a write-in vote will do – as each amendment must gain 50% plus one of the votes of people casting a ballot for governor in order to be adopted.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.