Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 4, 2022

State Constitutional amendments: Elections are more than a vote for candidates

For the past 10 months, I’ve written about real estate trends and local market reports. During that time, many of my readers have told me they’ve enjoyed the content each week and thanked and encouraged me.

This week, I’m venturing into the topic of our upcoming election. If, like me, you’re a Tennessee voter, then you might’ve heard about a few unexpected topics on which voters will be weighing in. Since being informed is important when voting, I want to draw your attention to these topics.

State and Federal Elections will take place Tuesday, Nov. 8. (Early voting concluded Nov. 3.) Tennessee voters can keep up to date on polling locations and voting hours on GoVoteTN.gov.

Candidates are making their final push with events and mailers, but there’s more on the ballot than contenders for public office, including four proposed state constitutional amendments.

Amending the state constitution is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. The most important part of voting for any amendment is understanding its implications.

If you don’t know how the proposed amendments will impact Tennessee, then please become informed. If you don’t have time to research an amendment, then don’t vote for it. Skip over it!

Essentially, we should approach changing constitutional or historical doctrines carefully and cautiously. We should ask ourselves, “What are we trying to correct?” and “What are the ramifications for the future?”

As part of my research, I read about the four proposed amendments on Ballotpedia. There are many other sources – and I encourage you to seek as many as you need until you feel you fully understand the proposed changes.

Here’s what I learned:

Constitutional amendment one

For 75 years, “right-to-work” has been law in our state constitution. 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 his or her membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization.

“Right-to-work” is not to be confused with the Employment at Will Act, which holds that employers may legally terminate an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason, without incurring legal liability. However, an employer may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of the employee’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin or disability.

Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time, for any or no reason, with no adverse legal consequences. There are a few exceptions, although they generally address penalties related to jury duty, military service or workers’ compensation claims.

Constitutional amendment two

This amendment would provide for an acting governor when the elected governor is unable to fulfill the duties of the office. The speaker of the Senate, who also serves as the lieutenant governor of Tennessee, would serve as acting governor.

The acting governor would perform the duties of the office until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she can perform the office’s powers and duties again.

The ballot measure would also allow a majority of the commissioners of the administrative departments of the executive department to submit a written, signed declaration stating the governor is unable to perform his or her powers and duties, thereby allowing for an acting governor until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she can once again perform the powers and duties of the office.

Article III, section 12 of the current State Constitution outlines the succession plan already in place if the governor dies but does not provide a process for the governor to be temporarily relieved of his or her power and duties.

Constitutional amendment three

This amendment would remove language from the Tennessee Constitution that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. The ballot measure would replace the language with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.”

The ballot measure would also state that the language does not prohibit an inmate from being forced to work when he or she has been duly convicted of a crime.

Tennessee’s constitution has expressly prohibited slavery since it was first adopted 1870, so the amending of historical language is more about its removal than a change of current practices.

Constitutional amendment four

This amendment would repeal Section 1 of Article IX of the Tennessee Constitution, which says religious ministers are disqualified from being elected to the General Assembly.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forbidding religious ministers from public office was unconstitutional. Due to McDaniel v. Paty, the constitutional language is not enforced.

This change is an opportunity for an amendment to clean up language that’s unenforceable.

As I stated earlier, changes are proposed daily. What we must do is become informed to ensure any potential modifications won’t erode our values and liberty as citizens.

I hope this snapshot into the four proposed amendments to our Tennessee State Constitution benefits you as you prepare to cast your vote.

As Realtors, we’re bound by our Code of Ethics to serve the housing needs of those around us, and our local elections are crucial to ensuring our communities are strong and vibrant.

Throughout the year, be assured that Realtors not only help in the homebuying process but also remain active participants in making where we live a better place. That’s Who We R.

Founded in 1912, Greater Chattanooga Realtors is a regional organization with more than 2,500 members servicing Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. The association is one of approximately 1,100 local associations and boards of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. Greater Chattanooga Realtors owns and operates a multiple listing service that’s one of approximately 600 MLSs in the country and services more than 2,700 users.