A ballot initiative that will be voted upon this November could change the way Tennessee’s gubernatorial line of succession is structured.
“On the November 8 ballot, Tennessee voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that establishes a framework for a temporary transition of power for the highest elected official in the state,” said a press release from the Tennessee General Assembly. “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.”
Under the initiative, which was sponsored by State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), the Speaker of the Senate, who also serves as Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, would assume power should the governor become temporarily incapacitated.
“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,” according to the release. “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 governor transmits that he or she is able to resume responsibilities.”
Should the lieutenant governor be placed in a position to temporarily assume the governorship, that person would not be required to resign from his or her seat as Senate Speaker.
Lamberth encouraged Tennesseeans to vote in favor of the proposed amendment.
“We certainly hope this is something we will never need, but it’s necessary to have a plan in place that secures our democracy in such a crisis,” Lamberth said. “Voting ‘yes’ on Amendment 2 will strengthen our constitution and our state government by ensuring there is no extended period in Tennessee where it’s unclear how executive powers are to be carried out.”
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Becky Massey” by Tennessee Republican Party. Photo “William Lamberth” by William Lamberth. Background Photo “Tennessee State Capitol” by FaceMePLS. CC BY 2.0.