Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has said that he will follow the Tennessee Plan to gain statehood for Puerto Rico. The Tennessee Plan, named after the method Tennessee used to gain statehood, is based on holding a vote for statehood, declaring statehood, electing senators and congresspeople and sending them to Washington along with a demand for statehood. Tennessee used this approach to speed up the process of admission to the Union. Before Tennessee did this, territories waited for Congress to get through their lengthy process.
Territories cannot legally declare themselves states, and Tennessee didn’t become a state when they declared themselves a state. Their plan did speed things up, though, and a number of other territories have used the Tennessee Plan since then.
Now Tennessee is adding its voice to those calling for statehood for Puerto Rico. Tilman Goins (R-TN) has filed a resolution with the Tennessee General Assembly. The resolution makes three strong points.
First, the United States has a strong historical relationship with Puerto Rico which gives Congress power over and responsibility for Puerto Rico. The resolution includes a recap of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States from the cession of the territory by Spain to the implementation of the Puerto Rico Constitution in 1952, concluding with the present day:
WHEREAS, during the 118 years of a mutually beneficial relationship, ties between the United States and Puerto Rico have strengthened in ways that are of constitutional significance, as Puerto Ricans have steadily integrated into American culture and institutions of U.S. government have grown substantially in Puerto Rico;
and WHEREAS, 400,000 Puerto Ricans have served in the United States armed forces in every conflict since World War I;
and WHEREAS, perhaps the greatest indicator of the integration of Puerto Rico into American society is the fact that, as of the 2010 Census, more Puerto Ricans now live on the mainland U.S. than on Puerto Rico;
Second, the bill lays out the inequality of Puerto Rico as a territory compared with the states:
and WHEREAS, despite this cultural and economic integration, Puerto Ricans are still relegated to second-class citizenship due to their island being an unincorporated U.S. territory instead of a sovereign state of the Union; Puerto Ricans do not have voting representation in the United States Congress, which has plenary powers over their affairs, nor are they entitled to electoral votes for President;
and WHEREAS, in a 2012 local referendum, a fifty-four-percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory, and sixty-one percent approved U.S. statehood over other options;
Third, the bill goes on to point out that, as a nation and under the declared political platform of the national party which the author represents, the United States has promised statehood to Puerto Rico if Puerto Rico wants statehood:
and WHEREAS, in its national platform, the Republican Party has pledged its support for the admission of Puerto Rico as a fully sovereign state into the Union;
and WHEREAS, the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have spoken, and this nation should support their desire to seek statehood;
With these supporting points made, the resolution follows:
[N]ow, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED TENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that this General Assembly urges the United States Congress to enact legislation enabling Puerto Rico’s admission as the fifty-first state of the Union.
Tilman Goins has represented Tennessee’s 10th District since 2013. He is a veteran and has not previously sponsored any legislation related to Puerto Rico, according to data at BallotPedia.