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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Essay on the Constitution of the State of Tennessee

The Constitution of the State of Tennessee outlines the relationship between the state and its people.  Just like any written constitution it embodies the rights of the people and the extent and limits of the authority of the state. One of its main articles is the Declaration of Rights.  It is embodied under Article I of the Declaration of Rights which enumerates the rights, liberties and freedom of the people (“The Constitution of the State of Tennessee, p.537).  It highlights right of the people which can be asserted against the state.  At the same time, the Declaration of Rights constitutes limitations of the authority of the government.  The Declaration of Rights basically points out that the government authority cannot exceed as to violate the Declaration of Rights.  It also implied states that if a government action intrudes or violates the existing right of the people then the government act may be declared to be unconstitutional for being in violation of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee.  For example, Article I Section 7 guarantees the right of the people against unreasonable searches and seizures.  This means that the government cannot order a warrantless search against an individual since it may be considered an unreasonable search which is in violation of Article I Section 7. 

The Constitution of the State of Tennessee also provide for the division of government powers into three branches.  These three branches are the Executive, Legislative and the Judicial Department which are co-equal departments.  These powers are specifically stated under Articles II, III and VI.  The main function of the Executive Branch is to implement the law.  The main function of the Legislative Branch is to enact, amend and repeal the law.  The main function of the Judicial Branch is to interpret the law.  The said sections delineate the extent of the authority conferred upon each of these three departments so that one department may not encroach upon the functions of another that will violate the sacred principle of Separation of Power.  Section II of Article II clearly states that a department may not perform the functions properly belonging to another department. This is based on the principle that “good fences make good neighbors.”  However, the State of Tennessee Constitution also provides for situations when one of the three branches may rectify the excesses or errors committed by the other branch.  For instance, if the Legislative branch passed a law that is deemed to be untimely the Executive Branch may veto the law (G.W. Copeland, 1983, p.696).  In the same manner, even if the Executive Branch signs an unconstitutional law, the Judicial Branch may declare the law unconstitutional. 

Since the United States follows the system known as federalism or a system of government where the powers between National Government known as the federal government and the states known as State Government are divided and shared, each of the states has its own state constitution.  Federalism is based on the principle of dual sovereignty by which the governmental powers and authority, functions, responsibilities and resources are distributed between the federal government and Regional Government.  Among the countries that follow this system is Canada.   In most cases, the constitution of the individual states is patterned after the United States Constitution.  However, there are situations when they may have different policies on different issues. Consider the issue of same-sex marriage which has brought major disagreements among the different states in the United States.  Some states allow same-sex marriages while some do not recognize it.  This will lead to a situation where the couple is considered validly married in one state while in some states they are not considered validly married (Dale Carpenter, p.1). 

In the state of Tennessee, the judicial system ensures that those who violate the law passed by the legislative department are punished for their transgression.  Its function also extends to the interpretation of laws as it is the branch which is the final arbiter on all questions of law.  If there is a need to interpret the law the judicial department settles all these questions.  The educational system provides for the policies that help ensure that the citizens of the state receive adequate training and education.  They make sure that the educational policies are sufficient to ensure an educated citizenry. 

The judicial and educational systems have both contributed to the attainment of the goals and objectives of the state.  However, these systems are not perfect and need to be improved.  For instance, there have been concerns raised about the growing number of inmates inside prisons.  The increasing number of inmates in prison is a significant concern considering that they drain the resources of the state government.  It is hoped that the State of Tennessee will not suffer the same fate as the State of California which already has one of the most populous prison population in the United States.  Perhaps, the state could look into its policies and instead of focusing on making the laws more punitive it should carefully look into other measures such as focusing on the protection of the family, community and the school which are basic institutions that can help deal with crime. 

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