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The Constitution Of The Great State Of Tennessee

     The first Constitution of the state of Tennessee was written in Knoxville during the winter of 1796, the year the state was created from the geographic area known as the Southwest Territory . The first constitution was not put to a vote of the citizens of the new state for ratification, but was approved by Congress. It gave almost complete control of state government to the legislative branch, thus abrogating the fundamental “balance of power” principle. This fact, among others, led to the calling of a new constitutional convention. The second convention met in Nashville during the Spring of 1834. A new constitution was approved by the people in March, 1835.

     The 1835 document stood until 1870, five years after the ending of the War Between the States. Delegates elected in December, 1869, met in Nashville on January 10, 1870, wrote a new constitution and adjourned on February 23, 1870. The new constitution was ratified by the people on the fourth Saturday in March, 1870.

     The 1870 constitution stood unchanged until 1953, when it was first amended. 

     Further amendments followed in 1960, 1966, 1972, 1978, 1998, and 2003.

Preamble and Declaration of Rights

     Whereas, The people of the territory of the United States south of the river Ohio, having the right of admission into the general government as a member state thereof, consistent with the Constitution of the United States, and the act of cession of the state of North Carolina, recognizing the ordinance for the government of the territory—of the United States north west of the Ohio River, by their delegates and representatives in convention assembled, did on the sixth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety six, ordain and establish a Constitution, or form of government, and mutually agreed with each other to form themselves into a free and independent state by the name of the state of Tennessee, and,

     Whereas, The General Assembly of the said state of Tennessee, (pursuant to the third section of the tenth article of the Constitution,) by an act passed on the Twenty-seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three, entitled, “An Act” to provide for the calling of a convention, passed in obedience to the declared will of the voters of the state, as expressed at the general election of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three, did authorize and provide for the election by the people of delegates and representatives, to meet at Nashville, in Davidson County, on the third Monday in May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, for the purpose of revising and amending, or changing, the Constitution, and said convention did accordingly meet and form a Constitution which was submitted to the people, and was ratified by them, on the first Friday in March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five, and,

     Whereas, The General Assembly of said state of Tennessee, under and in virtue of the first section of the first article of the Declaration of Rights, contained in and forming a part of the existing Constitution of the state, by an act passed on the fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine, did provide for the calling of a convention by the people of the state, to meet at Nashville, on the second Monday in January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy, and for the election of delegates for the purpose of amending or revising the present Constitution, or forming and making a new Constitution; and,

     Whereas, The people of the state, in the mode provided by said Act, have called said convention, and elected delegates to represent them therein; now therefore,

     Tennessee, duly elected, and in convention assembled, in pursuance of said act of Assembly have ordained and established the following Constitution and form of government for this state, which we recommend to the people of Tennessee for their ratification: That is to say

ARTICLE I.

Declaration of Rights.

    

    

    

     United States and of this state, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 21. That no man’s particular services shall be demanded, or property taken, or applied to public use, without the consent of his representatives, or without just compensation being made therefore.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 31. That the limits and boundaries of this state be ascertained, it is declared they are as hereafter mentioned, that is to say: Beginning on the extreme height of the Stone Mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, in latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north; running thence along the extreme height of the said mountain, to the place where Watauga river breaks through it; thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain, where Bright’s road crosses the same; thence along the ridge of said mountain, between the waters of Doe river and the waters of Rock creek, to the place where the road crosses the Iron Mountain; from thence along the extreme height of said mountain, to the place where Nolichucky river runs through the same; thence to the top of the Bald Mountain; thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the Painted Rock on French Broad river; thence along the highest ridge of said mountain, to the place where it is called the Great Iron or Smoky Mountain; thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the place where it is called Unicoi or Unaka Mountain, between the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota; thence along the main ridge of the said mountain to the southern boundary of this state, as described in the act of cession of North Carolina to the United States of America; and that all the territory, lands and waters lying west of said line, as before mentioned, and contained within the chartered limits of the state of North Carolina, are within the boundaries and limits of this state, over which the people have the right of exercising sovereignty, and the right of soil, so far as is consistent with the Constitution of the United States, recognizing the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights and Constitution of North Carolina, the cession act of the said state, and the ordinance of Congress for the government of the territory north west of Ohio; Provided, nothing herein contained shall extend to affect the claim or claims of individuals to any part of the soil which is recognized to them by the aforesaid cession act; And provided also, that the limits and jurisdiction of this state shall extend to any other land and territory now acquired, or that may hereafter be acquired, by compact or agreement with other states, or otherwise, although such land and territory are not included within the boundaries herein before designated.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE II.

Distribution of Powers.

    

    

Legislative Department.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 8. Legislative sessions—Governor’s inauguration—the General Assembly shall meet in organizational session on the second Tuesday in January next succeeding the election of the members of the House of Representatives, at which session, if in order, the governor shall be inaugurated. The General Assembly shall remain in session for organizational purposes not longer than fifteen consecutive calendar days, during which session no legislation shall be passed on third and final consideration. Thereafter, the General Assembly shall meet on the first Tuesday next following the conclusion of the organizational session unless the General Assembly by joint resolution of both houses sets an earlier date.

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 14. Each House may punish, by imprisonment, during its session, any person not a member, who shall be guilty of disrespect to the House, by any disorderly or any contemptuous behavior in its presence.

    

     (a) When twelve months or more remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district represented, and such successor shall serve the remainder of the original terms. The election shall be held within such time as provided by law. The legislative body of the replaced legislator’s county of residence at the time of his or her election may elect an interim successor to serve until the election.

     (b) When less than twelve months remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the legislative body of the replaced legislator’s county of residence at the time of his or her election. The term of any senator so elected shall expire at the next general election for legislators, at which election a successor shall be elected.

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 20. The style of the laws of this state shall be, “Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee.” No law of a general nature shall take effect until forty days after its passage unless the same or the caption thereof shall state that the public welfare requires that it should take effect sooner.

    

    

    

     This amendment shall take effect immediately upon adoption so that any member of the General Assembly elected at a general election wherein this amendment is approved shall be entitled to the compensation set herein.

     Section 24. No public money shall be expended except pursuant to appropriations made by law. Expenditures for any fiscal year shall not exceed the state’s revenues and reserves, including the proceeds of any debt obligation, for that year. No debt obligation, except as shall be repaid within the fiscal year of issuance, shall be authorized for the current operation of any state service or program, nor shall the proceeds of any debt obligation be expended for a purpose other than that for which it was authorized.

     In no year shall the rate of growth of appropriations from state tax revenues exceed the estimated rate of growth of the state’s economy as determined by law. No appropriation in excess of this limitation shall be made unless the General Assembly shall, by law containing no other subject matter, set forth the dollar amount and the rate by which the limit will be exceeded.

     Any law requiring the expenditure of state funds shall be null and void unless, during the session in which the act receives final passage, an appropriation is made for the estimated first year’s funding.

    

     An accurate financial statement of the state’s fiscal condition shall be published annually.

    

    

    

     Section 28. In accordance with the following provisions, all property real, personal or mixed shall be subject to taxation, but the Legislature may except such as may be held by the state, by counties, cities or towns, and used exclusively for public or corporation purposes, and such as may be held and used for purposes purely religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational, and shall except the direct product of the soil in the hands of the producer, and his immediate vendee, and the entire amount of money deposited in an individual’s personal or family checking or savings accounts. For purposes of taxation, property shall be classified into three classes, to wit: Real Property, Tangible Personal Property and Intangible Personal Property.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     value;

    

    

    

    

     The Legislature shall have power to tax merchants, peddlers, and privileges, in such manner as they may from time to time direct, and the Legislature may levy a gross receipts tax on merchants and businesses in lieu of ad valorem taxes on the inventories of merchandise held by such merchants and businesses for sale or exchange. The portion of a merchant’s capital used in the purchase of merchandise sold by him to nonresidents and sent beyond the state, shall not be taxed at a rate higher than the ad valorem tax on property. The Legislature shall have power to levy a tax upon incomes derived from stocks and bonds that are not taxed ad valorem.

    

    

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE III.

Executive Department.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE IV.

Elections.

    

    

    

    

    

Section 4. In all elections to be made by the General Assembly, the members thereof shall vote viva voce, and their votes shall be entered on the journal. All other elections shall be by ballot.

ARTICLE V.

Impeachments.

    

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE VI.

Judicial Department.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Section 12. All writs and other process shall run in the name of the state of Tennessee and bear test and be signed by the respective clerks. Indictments shall conclude, “against the peace and dignity of the state.”

    

    

ARTICLE VII.

State and County Officers.

    

    

    

     No officeholder’s current term shall be diminished by the ratification of this article.

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE VIII

Militia.

    

    

    

ARTICLE IX

Disqualifications.

    

    

    

ARTICLE X.

Oaths, Bribery of Electors, New Counties.

    

    

    

    

    

    

ARTICLE XI.

Miscellaneous Provisions.

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

     Any municipality may by ordinance submit to its qualified voters in a general or special election the question: “Shall this municipality adopt home rule?”

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

 

Schedule.

    

    

    

     

   

    

     In the event any vacancy shall occur in the office of either of said judges at any time after the first day of January one thousand eight hundred seventy three; it shall remain unfilled and the court shall from that time be constituted of five judges. While the court shall consist of six judges they may sit in two sections, and may hear and determine causes in each at the same time, but not in different grand divisions at the same time. 

    

     The attorney general and reporter for the state shall be appointed after the election and qualification of the judges of the Supreme Court herein provided  for.

    

     first day of January one thousand eight hundred and sixty seven shall not be computed, in any cases affected by the statutes of limitation, nor shall any writ of error be affected by such lapse of time.