Tennessee has had three constitutions. The first state constitution was adopted in 1796, and the second in 1835. The present one, adopted in 1870, was revised by limited constitutional conventions in 1953, 1959, 1965, 1971, and 1977. Amendments to the constitution must be approved by a simple majority of the elected members of each house of the state legislature, then by a two-thirds majority during the next legislative session. The amendment must then be ratified by a majority of the Tennesseans voting for governor in the next general election. Amendments may also be initiated by a constitutional convention, but this may only be done once every six years.
The state’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term and may not serve more than two terms in a row. The governor may veto proposed legislation, but the legislature may override the veto by a majority vote of the houses. The governor appoints numerous state officials, including most of the heads of the executive departments.
Of the state administrative officials, only the governor and the three public service commissioners are elected directly by the voters. The remaining officials, the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller are elected by the legislators. The attorney general is selected by the justices of the state supreme court.
The state legislature, which is called the General Assembly, consists of a 33-member Senate and a 99-member House of Representatives.
Senators are elected for four-year terms, and house members are elected for two-year terms. The legislature meets in regular sessions, beginning in January. In addition, the governor has the power to call special sessions.
The highest court in Tennessee is the state supreme court, which consists of five justices elected for eight-year terms. The justices select one of their number to serve as chief justice. The two intermediate tribunals are the court of criminal appeals and the court of appeals. Judges on these courts are elected to eight-year terms, as are judges of the state’s chancery courts, circuit courts, criminal courts, and law-equity courts. Tennessee courts with purely local jurisdiction include justice-of-the-peace courts, courts of general sessions, and county courts.
Most of Tennessee’s 95 counties are governed by county courts made up of popularly elected justices of the peace and presided over by a county judge or chairman. In some counties administrative functions are performed by elected county commissions. The government of Davidson County is combined with that of the city of Nashville. There are 336 municipalities in Tennessee, most of which are governed by a mayor and council. Some municipalities, however, have either the council and manager form of government or the commission form of government. "Tennessee" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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