State Constitutional Amendment On Ballot In November
Seven weeks from today is November 8th…of couse that is election day. Voters will cast their votes in the city, state and federal elections. Another vote they will cast is for a constitutional amendment to the state of Tennessee’s constitution. It will be listed as “Amendment 2” on the ballot and will require a “Yes” or “No” vote. What the amendment does is establishes a framework for a temporary transition of power for the highest elected official in the state….the governor. If approved, the amendment would be invoked if the governor is temporarily incapacitated and unable to perform his or her duties, most likely due to a medical emergency. Tennessee is the only state that does not have a provision in its state constitution to address this issue. The proposed constitutional amendment states that if a governor is unable to perform his or her duties because of temporary incapacitation, then the powers and duties of the governor will be discharged by the speaker of the Senate, who is also the Lt. Governor. If it is a planned incapacitation, such as a major surgery, then the governor would declare in writing that the powers and duties of the office will be temporarily discharged by the Senate speaker. If it is an unplanned incapacitation, then a majority of the governor’s cabinet will submit the written declaration. The acting governor would be authorized to continue to perform the duties of the office until the actual governor transmits that he or she is able to resume responsibilities.
If the Senate speaker is acting governor, the speaker will not be required to resign as speaker or as a member of the General Assembly. However, he or she will not preside as speaker or vote as a member in order to maintain separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch and because the Tennessee Constitution does not allow an elected official to hold two offices at the same time.
Two things must happen for an amendment to pass and become part of the Constitution. The first is the amendment must get more yes votes than no votes. The second is that the number of yes votes must be a majority of the total votes cast in the gubernatorial election.
Other states have used a similar provisions before but it is rare. Most recently, Indiana’s Governor Frank O’Bannon had a massive stroke, and his office was temporarily assumed until his death.
Tennessee already has a provision in place for the death of the governor. This has only been used once in Tennessee history when Governor Austin Peay died in 1927. He was replaced by Speaker of the Senate Henry Horton.