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Tennessee voters lock in big changes in 2014

November 6, 2014

With offices and legislation alike in flux the past few days, many states are expecting some big changes to come about in the next few months to a year. That could definitely be said for the state of Tennessee, where all four of the state constitutional amendments on the ballot appear to have passed. What are these amendments exactly? We are here to help explain them to you.

The closest of any of the amendments was with regards to abortion regulation in the state, with 54 percent voting in favor of laws which would allow stricter controls over the type and number of places which could perform the procedure. Those in favor argued that the measure would make abortions safer by regulating the professionals and environments involved, while opponents called it a thinly-veiled attempt at bringing back the Roe v. Wade days.

One of the other amendments that was voted upon has to do with how the state’s Supreme Court justices come into power. As strictly put by the current constitution, Supreme Court justices have to be voted in by the citizens of the state. For the last twenty years, however, the governor has appointed someone, and then asked the voters to confirm or deny his choice. The new amendment writes this process officially into law, and also allows the state lawmakers to reject appointees.

This law is largely ceremonial, though it may be of concern that the appoint and confirm method rather than a normal election process definitely turns the power of influence on the Supreme Court to the governor personally rather than the people themselves.

Income tax was another issue on the chopping block. Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax, and it looks like they won’t for a long time. In 2002, an attempt at implementing such a tax lead to such a backlash that some lawmakers resigned. It looks like the voters of this state are extremely serious about this issue. While income taxes are complex affairs with pros and cons, this result is hardly surprising given that people generally, when given the option, just plain aren’t going to part with more of the money they earn, regardless of the purported place it’s meant to be going.

A lottery for military veterans? It looks like that’s the case in Tennessee. Veterans often need help when they return home and homelessness rates among returnees are significantly higher when compared to almost any other group or demographic. One solution is encased in an amendment that was showing over 70 percent support in the most recent counts, and that’s to allow veterans groups to hold charitable “gaming” (aka lottery type games) in order to raise money for the cause.

Changes coming to Tennessee might not be massive, and most of them won’t be felt in daily life for most people, but they do represent a lot of momentum behind certain causes, concepts, and political ideals. The ones that are most likely to receive a backlash are the abortion amendment, followed by the amendment that outlines how judiciary officials are appointed.