Sen. Jim Summerville Files Constitutional Amendment Addressing Preference

Category: State Issues

Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) filed a Constitutional Amendment this week addressing the granting of preference based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin by state government entities.  At first glance, the legislation seems harmless, but closer analysis reveals a host of concerns.

The resolution (SJR0034), a continuation of Summerville’s 2013 legislative package, fails to define what constitutes “preferential treatment,” and as such creates major litigation concerns for public institutions of higher education.  For example, is recruiting underrepresented groups to apply for admissions “preferential treatment?”  Is creating sex-specific programs, such as a summer program to encourage women to pursue STEM fields, preferential treatment?  The bill raises a number of questions and fails to provide clarity for public higher education institutions.  Complicating matters further, the Supreme Court of the United States is currently considering a case that will determine whether such bans by states are constitutional.

Last year, Sen. Summerville ran similar legislation.  The move to a Constitutional amendment is an interesting one—to survive, Constitutional amendments must be passed by two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly.  The first passages must be by a majority in each house.  The second passage requires a two-thirds majority in each house.  The question must then appear on the ballot at the next general election where a governor is selected.  A majority of voters would need to approve the amendment for it to be added to the State’s Constitution.

Tags: , ,