Tennessee will not become the first state in the nation to make the Holy Bible its official book after an effort to override Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto failed to receive enough support in the House of Representatives.
With a 43-50 vote on Wednesday (April 20), the House failed to give the Senate a chance to vote to override Haslam’s veto.
The chamber discussed the controversial bill for nearly two hours.
Although the initial attempt to override Haslam’s veto failed, under House rules, the bill’s sponsors could request to hold a subsequent vote later Wednesday because it’s the last day of session.
While some believed the House’s failed effort was rare territory, a look back at the last five governors indicates lawmakers have opted to overrule the executive branch’s action one-fifth of the time a governor has vetoed a bill.
The latest override attempt came just six days after Haslam sent a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, in which he said the measure trivializes the Bible and violates the state and federal constitutions, a point made by Attorney General Herbert Slatery in a 2015 opinion.
In the last 37 years, Tennessee lawmakers have successfully voted to override a combined 20 vetoes from three different governors.
Most states require a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto. While seven states require a three-fifths vote to override a veto, Tennessee is just one of six — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia being the others — that require a simple majority vote to negate the governor’s action, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That makes Haslam’s veto power one of the weakest in the nation.