Overview of constitutional amendments on the ballot

Authored By david.morton

Early voting begins this week for the Nov. 4 election, and in addition to candidates and local ballot measures, Tennesseans will vote on four amendments to the state constitution.

In order to get on the ballot, the General Assembly has to approve an amendment in two successive legislative sessions over a four-year period. The second vote requires a two-thirds majority.

For final passage, the amendment must be approved by a simple majority and the majority of voters who vote in the governor’s race.

Amendment One: Abortion
Amendment One would give the General Assembly the power to regulate abortion in Tennessee.

It stems from a 2000 state Supreme Court decision that struck down several abortion laws, including requirements to prove residency, a 48-hour waiting period and physician’s counseling.

Supporters say they want to “neutralize” the court’s decision because they believe it gave Tennesseans a broader right to abortion than under Roe v. Wade.

Opponents say it would “open the door” to more restrictive laws and would not make exceptions for cases of rape, incest or life-threatening disease.

Amendment Two: Judicial selection
Amendment Two would make the governor’s appointments to state courts subject to confirmation by the General Assembly, similar to how federal judges are selected. It would also solidify the current process used for judicial appointments.

The issue has been debated for decades. The Tennessee Constitution currently says judges should be elected by voters.

Since the 1990s, a special committee has selected judicial nominees. The governor makes appointments from that field. Voters then decide whether to keep them in office in retention elections every eight years.

Supporters say it would keep the judicial selection process independent.

Opponents want state judges to be popularly elected.

Amendment Three: Income tax
Amendment Three would prevent the creation of a state income tax.

Tennessee is one of a handful of states with no income tax. Passage of this amendment would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for future lawmakers to implement one.

Supporters say the amendment would solidify Tennessee’s stance on income taxes and encourage economic development.

Opponents say it would lead to future increases in sales and property taxes.

Amendment Four: Lotteries
Amendment Four would allow some nonprofit organizations, such as veterans groups, to hold raffles.

Currently, nonprofits organized under 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code are currently allowed to hold “charitable gambling” events. But many veterans groups organized under 501(c)(19) of the U.S. tax code cannot.