Ragan to handle veterans gambling constitutional amendment; anticipates vote ‘soon’

Rep. John Ragan, an Air Force veteran, says he expects to move “soon” for House approval of a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that would allow veterans groups to hold charity gambling events.

If approved by the House as expected, the measure (SJR60) will become the fourth proposed amendment to the state constitution appearing on the November ballot. The state Senate last year gave its final approval and only the House vote remains.

Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, took over handling of the resolution in the House from former Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who resigned from his seat last month. Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, was sponsor in the Senate.

A constitutional amendment legalizing lotteries in Tennessee, approved by voters in 2002, included a provision allowing charities organized under section “501 C 3” of the federal Internal Revenue Service law to hold annual gambling events for fundraising. By citing that specific section, veterans organizations — the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, for example — are effectively excluded because they are organized under a separate section, 501 C 19.

The proposal won unanimous approval of the House in the 107th General Assembly and Ragan says he anticipates no difficulty in winning approval of the 108th General Assembly this year by the necessary two-thirds majority.

Previously approved for statewide votes on Nov. 4 are proposed constitutional amendments that allow the Legislature to enact more stringent restrictions on abortion, to revise the state’s system for appointment of appellate court judges and to forever prohibit a tax on personal income in Tennessee.

Groups are already organizing campaigns to promote or oppose passage of the abortion and judicial selection amendment. Ragan said he anticipates there will also be an effort to push for a positive vote on the veterans amendment, probably led by veterans groups.