NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Two years ago Governor Phil Bredesen became sick after a tick bite. Bredesen's illness led to many people asking, "Who replaces the governor when he or she is sick or incapacitated?"
The Tennessee Constitution currently addresses who would take over if the governor was removed, resigned or died in office. The constitution, however, does not address what happens if the governor would become sick or incapacitated.
That leaves the question, "When the governor gets sick or is incapacitated who's in charge?"
"That's a very good question. I like that because it makes me think now," said one citizen.
After asking around NewsChannel 5 found out a lot of Tennesseans aren't sure who would take over if the governor became sick or incapacitated.
"Would that be the deputy governor or lieutenant governor?" asked another citizen. "It's not Dave Cooley anymore. I know that. It used to be Dave Cooley."
Dave Cooley was Bredesen's chief of staff. The chief of staff would not take over, because if the governor would become sick or have to hand over the duties of running the office, no plan on who would take over has been put in place in the Tennessee Constitution.
This issue came up two years ago when Bredesen became ill after receiving a tick bite. The governor had to check into a local hospital before traveling to the Mayo Clinic to get help.
After being left with no plan, state lawmakers wrote an amendment that establishes a succession. The amendment was passed Thursday in the Senate, and the line of succession would look like this:
First, would be the Lieutenant Governor, which is currently Republican Sen. Ron Ramsey.
Next in line would be the House Speaker - currently Jimmy Naifeh.
The Secretary of State would be the third choice to take over, and in this case that would be Riley Darnell.
Darnell would be followed by the Comptroller of the Treasury - currently John Morgan.
"It's fine to be in that succession. It's one of those things where you hope and pray you would never get close to being called on to do something like that," Morgan said.
The last office down the line would be the state treasurer, and right now that is Dale Sims.
The way the amendment has been written the governor can declare himself incapacitated by telling the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house and the secretary of state.
Those same state leaders, with the help of the attorney general, can ask the state Supreme Court to declare the governor incapacitated.