© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

TN Politics: Tennessee Doesn't Allow for Citizen-Driven Ballot Initiatives

On issues like guns, abortion and medical marijuana, even many conservatives are to the left of their elected leaders. Three southern states — Florida, Arkansas and Mississippi — discovered that recently when citizen-initiated ballot measures pushed back against the most proscriptive Republican laws, much to the chagrin of lawmakers.

In Tennessee, polls show that citizens want moderate gun restrictions even as lawmakers continue to support the best financial interests of the gun industry, including allowing guns in public schools, forcing them into private businesses that ban them and training children as young as kindergarten on how to properly handle guns.

But Tennessee's constitution doesn't allow for citizen-led ballot initiatives. Lawmakers decide in committee which bills get to be considered and which don't. For the gun and anti-abortion lobby, it is a gift to have moderate viewpoints blocked at the source by politicians who do not wish to be challenged in the primary.

Political analyst Otis Sanford says the only way citizens have any significant influence on legislation in Tennessee is through elections.

Also in the news, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn visited Memphis this week touting some potential federal legislation that could have an impact on urban areas suffering from high crime.

In addition, a Shelby County judge denied a motion by officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols to have their murder trial moved to another jurisdiction.

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.