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Tennessee Government and Laws

For all practical intents and purposes, Tennessee’s state government is structured to work the same way as they get things done way up north at our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. Just as the feds and fellow sovereign political subdivisions commonly called “states,” Tenny’s system of governance features a trifurcate design comprised by three distinct branches. Each branch exists to serve its own unique function that fits into a greater scheme called “checks and balances,” which is an essentially vital systemic dynamic that’s indispensable for any democracy. However, Volunteer State government has some very distinctive unique “quirks” of its own, as shown in a summarized description of each branch that’s listed below:

  • Executive Branch

Tennessee’s governor is its sole politician with a statewide electorate. Moreover, unlike those of sister states, Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor is not directly elected via popular vote. Instead, State Senators elect a Speaker of the House, who serves double duty as acting Lt. Governor.

  • Legislative Branch

Variously known as the ‘General Assembly,’ Tennessee’s State Legislature consists of 33 Senators who serve four-year terms and 99 House Representatives with two-year terms.

  • Judicial Branch

Tennessee’s highest court of last resort is the State Supreme Court. Comprised of one Chief Justice and four Associate Justices, the Tennessee Supreme Court is just a little over half the size of its federal counterpart. Another peculiar aspect of Tennessee’s Supreme Court is vested power to appoint the State Attorney General. This practice is not heard of anywhere else in the entire 49-member continental U.S.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam highly touted as “America’s New Billionaire”

Per a high-profile media report, Volunteer State Chief Executive Bill Haslam was America’s wealthiest politician. According to Forbes Magazine, this distinction accrued over five brief months between August 2014 and January 2015, when gas prices fell dramatically, thereby doubling Haslam’s net worth as Flying J Pilot truck stop chain heir to an estimated $2 billion.

Dominant population demographic political affiliation and participation

As in other states, two major political parties dominate Tennessee’s political scenes that are respectively denoted as “Democrat” and “Republican.” Similarly, like every other ex-Confederate rebel state in the Deep South, Tennessee residents were once overwhelmingly loyal Democratic voters. However, that long-standing historically staunch loyalty seems to have loosened up lately. Prestigious research publications consistently report emergent trends in Volunteer State political winds that are very different from traditional directions.

By the early 2000s, most residents had reverted to traditional Republican voting habits in the vast majority of Tennessee locales. That recent en mass paradigm shift in political affiliation was reportedly most prevalent in suburban and rural locations throughout the state. By stark contrast, Democratic Party strength is primarily concentrated within a small “core” group of four major urban areas that includes Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville. Very large African American populations in the last two cities probably explain correspondingly segregated political strength in Tennessee.

One especially vivid reflection of lately reversed direction in Tennesseans’ political loyalties was Volunteer State native and former Democratic U.S. Senator Vice President Al Gore’s failure to win enough votes from his home state during the 2000 Presidential election.

Silly laws still exist in Tennessee state codes

Like a lot of other locations across this great nation, Tennessee retains many legal rules, legislation and regulations that reflect backward thinking far behind the times. Below is a brief list with but a few examples.

  • Students may not hold hands at school
  • Sharing your Netflix password is a criminal offense in Tennessee
  • Posting online images that case “emotional distress” without a “legitimate purpose” is a crime
  • Horse-stealing is still a capital offense in Tennessee
  • Engaging in oral sex is technically prohibited by Tennessee state law
  • Interracial marriages are illegal in Tennessee
  • Skunk importation is an illegal act in Tennessee

The long standing and latest emergent trends in Tennessee’s government portend nothing more than anyone should expect for every state across this entire great Union.