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VOL. 129 | NO. 196 | Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Haslam Touts State Constitutional Amendments

By Bill Dries

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam intends to vote for all four of the proposed amendments to the state Constitution on the Nov. 4 ballot, he said during a stop in Memphis Monday, Oct. 6.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he favors all four of the proposed amendments to the Tennessee Constitution on the Nov. 4 ballot.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Haslam was in Memphis to campaign specifically for the amendment that would require approval from the Tennessee Legislature of appellate court judges nominated by the governor. Amendment 2 would also leave in place judicial retention elections.

When asked later specifically about his stand on Amendment 1, which gives the Tennessee Legislature the ability to enact, amend or repeal statutes on abortion – including abortion in the event of rape or incest – Haslam said he favored it.

“It really just puts this state’s laws to match what the federal laws are,” Haslam said, adding state and federal laws are out of sync because of recent federal court decisions. “For me it’s about bringing those two back into balance and that’s why I’m in favor of it.”

Haslam and former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice George Brown of Memphis campaigned for Amendment 2 on judicial selection, during the campaign stop at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

Brown was appointed to the state’s highest court in 1980 by then-Gov. Lamar Alexander, and he ran for election to the court at a time when the state had contested elections instead of retention elections.

Brown lost to Frank Drowota.

Brown told a group of 60 that he would not wish the statewide campaign on anyone and argued that for judicial candidates, such a statewide campaign is not the way to elect an appellate court judge based on contested judicial elections he’s read about and heard about in other states.

“How are you going to stay professional and stay neutral and keep your job?” he said, noting the “seven-figure” money raised for judicial campaign in Texas and Alabama in particular.

Brown is among those who believe that if the amendment fails at the polls, legislators are likely to approve a move to contested multi-candidate judicial elections at the appellate level.

“My situation might be an aberration,” Brown told reporters later. “It showed me personally how much time and effort is required to cover this state.”

Haslam contrasted a statewide judicial campaign to a statewide campaign for governor.

“I’ve run a statewide race before and I know how hard that is and I know what’s involved in terms of the money raised and everything else,” said Haslam, who is waging his second statewide campaign, this time for re-election. “Think about 29 appellate-level judges, running a statewide race and I don’t think that’s a picture that anybody really thinks is the best way to select our appellate level judges.”

The audience included a few opponents but no organized opposition to the measure.

“I think our main message is one of explaining what this is,” Haslam said. “It’s a complex situation.”

Brown mirrored comments by Haslam in Memphis last month in an earlier stop that included campaigning for Amendment 2 when he was asked by someone in the audience about the amendment as an expression of the political agenda of the Republican super majorities in the legislature.

“We don’t live in a perfect world,” he said. “Sometimes we have to be very practical.”

Haslam sought to put distance between what various legislators have proposed and what the legislature has passed and sent to his desk.

“We are judged by what is voted on and not what is considered,” he said.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751