John Dinan, author of "State Constitutional Politics: Governing by Amendment in the American States," can comment on mid-term elections and the state constitutional amendments appearing on the ballot. From voter identification to redistricting, Dinan can place particular amendments in nationwide and historical perspective. Based on his research, he can also address the arguments and issues that routinely surface in campaigns supporting and opposing various amendments.
He is also prepared to comment on federal and state policies in areas ranging from the Affordable Care Act to legislative redistricting to voter-registration rules. Dinan closely follows U.S. and North Carolina political races, including gubernatorial and congressional races.
Dinan teaches courses on campaigns and elections, state politics and congress and policymaking. He frequently provides commentary for news outlets across the country and his research was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2015). He is also the author of "The American State Constitutional Tradition" and an annual review of state constitutional developments in the 50 states, as well as numerous articles on state and federal politics.
Areas of Expertise (8)
University of Virginia: Ph.D., Political Science 1996
University of Virginia: M.A., Political Science 1994
University of Virginia: B.A., Political Science 1990
- American Political Science Association Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations Section: Former Chair
- Publius The Journal of Federalism: Editor
Media Appearances (17)
Do the challenges to North Carolina’s constitutional amendments have a chance?
The Charlotte Observer
“The people are seen as the ultimate interpreters of state constitutions and in a way judges are hesitant to challenge,” says Wake Forest University professor John Dinan, a state Constitution expert, told the editorial board Monday.
That leaves ancillary issues like ballot language, and if that seems like a bit of a Hail Mary, well, yes. “State courts have generally set a very high bar for challengers seeking removal of amendments from the ballot,” says Dinan, “especially when considering claims that ballot language crafted by legislators is inaccurate.”
There are exceptions, including a Florida circuit court judge ruling just last week that an anti-dog-racing amendment should be removed from the ballot because of inaccurate language. But the hurdle for challengers is higher in North Carolina than in most states, Dinan says, thanks to our constitution explicitly saying that the legislature is responsible for determining how and when amendments are presented on the ballot. Other states give legislators less discretion on ballot language — and in many other areas.
As for the NAACP/Clean Air Carolina contention that Republican lawmakers have no standing to pass the proposed amendments because of a gerrymandering case pending in the courts, Dinan and others say that’s likely to be treated less seriously by the courts.
Is NH privacy amendment too vague?
New Hampshire Union Leader
If the amendment is ratified, New Hampshire would become the 11th state with a specific right to privacy enshrined in its constitution, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
None of the other states' constitutions include such an explicit carve out for information privacy, although courts have interpreted them to extend into that realm, said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University who studies state constitutions.
Fear that the amendment could be used to prevent government agencies from reviewing building plans or gathering information like sex offenders' addresses is likely overblown, legal experts said, but there are plenty of areas in which its impact will be less clear.
"You can see someone using this amendment, if passed, in litigation against license plate readers," Dinan said. After years of prohibiting the technology, the Legislature in 2016 voted to allow police departments to use license plate readers, although the restrictions on how the data can be used are far more stringent than in other states.
Could the GOP bypass Cooper’s veto using this constitutional amendment?
The News & Observer
Despite the lack of the “no other matter” language, experts at Duke and Wake Forest universities said they doubted any judge would allow the legislature to exploit such a small loophole.
“I don’t have any explanation for why the usual qualifying language wasn’t inserted. But I have no doubt whatsoever about what a court would do in the event that a legislature might try to exploit the lack of qualifying language by attaching matters unrelated to judicial vacancies to a judicial-vacancy bill,” John Dinan, an expert on the N.C. Constitution at Wake Forest University, said in an email.
“I can’t imagine any situation where a court would do anything other than uphold a gubernatorial veto in such a case and at the very least declare the unrelated material void,” Dinan said.
Employer sponsored health plans may remain at low single-digit rate increase level
The Winston Salem Journal
Workers relying on employer-sponsored health-insurance plans experienced an average 3 percent increase in premium costs during 2017, according to a national study released last week.
That growth rate continued what the Kaiser Family Foundation calls a “six-year run of relatively modest increases” for the 151 million Americans who receive employer-sponsored insurance coverage.
The average household premium cost is $18,764 for 2017.
A second national study released last week by Mercer, a benefit services company, found that employers project a 4.3 percent premium increase for 2018 after they make planned changes, such as raising deductibles or switching carriers.
Mercer said that increase would be the largest national annual increase since 2011. Mercer expects to have its North Carolina specific report out by early November.
Health-care economists caution that in the current era of health-insurance uncertainty, past performance does not guarantee similar low single-digit increases going forward.
For example, the proposed U.S. Senate Graham-Cassidy repeal initiative for the federa’ Affordable Care Act would allow employers with more than 50 workers to quit providing sponsored insurance without facing a federal tax penalty.
The individual insurance mandate also would go away, while states could request waivers to projected Medicaid block grants that would allow them to drop covering certain essential benefits, such as maternity care and prescription drugs.
“As policymakers and providers continue to work to improve health care, ensuring it remains affordable and accessible is critically important,” said Dr. Jay Bhatt, the chief medical officer for the American Hospital Association.
Who Needs Washington?
U.S. News & World Report
Anyone who thinks the governors' views will get lost in a cacophony of special-interest dissent need only look at Arizona, says John Dinan, a politics and international affairs professor at Wake Forest University. "In casting the deciding vote to kill the earlier repeal effort this summer, Sen. McCain said he was voting no in part because of the concerns of his own state's governor," Dinan notes but given Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's support for Graham-Cassidy, the governor also "could therefore be decisive in enabling Sen. McCain to vote for the current repeal bill and therefore lead to its passage."
Rate of uninsured North Carolinians reaches historic low in 2016
The Winston Salem Journal
John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest, also said he doesn’t believe the Census data will play a pivotal role in shifting opinions on Medicaid expansion.
“As long as the legislature continues to oppose Medicaid expansion, North Carolina is likely to remain one of the 19 states not participating in this aspect of the ACA,” Dinan said.
Trump puts Sen. Richard Burr in difficult position with N.C. voters
NPR: All Things Considered
Donald Trump's controversies have made life difficult for other Republicans running for lower office this year. That includes Sen. Richard Burr, who is in a tight reelection race in North Carolina.
"Richard Burr's facing some of the same quandaries that a lot of Republican officeholders are facing," said John Dinan, professor of politics. "Presidential voting will still drive much of the voting turnout, will bring people to the polls. And to the extent that he disavows Trump, that kind of perhaps runs the risk of reducing Republican turnout, which in turn has a chance of hurting Richard Burr's chances of it at the polls."
Professor: 2016 race in North Carolina remains 'razor thin'
WFU Professor of Politics John Dinan offers Election 2016 insights: North Carolina as a battleground state.
NC's Swing State Status Continues to Take the National Spotlight
Time Warner Cable News
North Carolina’s swing state status is having an effect on races for president, governor and Senate now more than ever.
Wake Forest University political professor John Dinan says there's no doubt, the Tar Heel State is crucial in this year's presidential election.
"North Carolina's one of only two states that shifted parties between 2008 and 2012—the only other was Indiana—so North Carolina has that history of being close and also being capable of going Republican or Democratic,” Dinan said.
NC's HB2 law inspires others to copy it despite tough federal stand
Because HB2 is subject to several legal challenges and the Supreme Court has not previously heard a transgender bathroom-use case, activists on both sides are operating with “competing interpretations” of federal laws, said John Dinan, a political scientist at Wake Forest University. “This is a fluid area of law,” Dinan said, adding that the continued push in some localities for HB2-like laws isn’t necessarily surprising.
With Trump as GOP’s choice, DEMS eye North Carolina comeback
The Associated Press
Four years ago, North Carolina was the one that got away for Democrats – the only battleground state President Barack Obama didn't carry in his resounding re-election triumph. Now, with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket and state GOP officials embroiled in a contentious fight over transgender rights, Democrats see a ripe opportunity for likely nominee Hillary Clinton to grab North Carolina back in November, as well as boost her party's prospects in competitive races for Senate and governor. "Trump just opens up possibilities, opportunities for Democrats to say, look, this is at least a possible winnable race in North Carolina," said John Dinan, a politics professor.
What’s next in battle between NC and federal government over HB2
Raleigh News & Observer
Even before House Speaker Tim Moore made it clear Thursday that a political showdown could be ahead between the state and federal governments over the future of House Bill 2, questions swirled about what might happen if neither side blinks. As often is the case with legal questions, there is no simple answer. John Dinan, professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest, answered this question: Is there precedent for withholding the funds? “It’s almost unprecedented for federal funds to be cut off,” he said. Typically, Dinan said, such a letter stands as the start for negotiations between the federal government and the accused offender, and a settlement is worked out that thwarts the withholding of funds.
Southern Republicans: Going rogue
Judging by the rhetoric of the Republican presidential contest, the country is going to the dogs; in parts of the South, the infrastructure is indeed crumbling. Yet the region’s politicians are concentrating on problems that, to put it mildly, are often less than pressing. Florida passed a law stopping clergy from being dragooned into conducting same-sex marriages, a threat already neutralised by America’s constitution. Predatory men infiltrating women’s toilets, the spectre raised in North Carolina and elsewhere, is a similarly apocryphal fear. … John Dinan of Wake Forest University observes that while stand-offs between the federal and state governments capture more attention, battles between states and municipalities have become as frequent and fierce.
Representative Howard Coble dies at 84
The Warner Cable News
"It would be difficult to find too many places where Representative Coble was departing from the conservative tradition, or was leaving the Republican Party on these issues," said John Dinan, Wake Forest University Professor of Politics and International Affairs...
Bid to restore historic preservation tax credits set to begin
John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University, said the challenge to passing the bill is convincing legislators who have touted the corporate tax-rate cut to change their minds...
Minimum wage, marijuana seen as paths to democratic votes in 2016
Ballot measures will probably have less effect on voter turnout in a presidential election than at mid-terms, which typically draw less participation, said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina...
Meet Sean Haugh, the Libertarian pizza guy who may deliver a Senate seat in N.C.
The Washington Post
Wake Forest University political scientist John Dinan agreed: “We have seen time and time again that if a pollster includes a third-party candidate in a list of candidates in a survey taken several months out from the election, that this will often generate a support level of around 10 percentage points. But the closer we come to Election Day, this support almost inevitably fades to a minimal level.”
Although constitutional amendment activity was lower in 2014 than in recent even-numbered years, several of the 72 approved amendments attracted significant attention. These include amendments relaxing legislative term limits in Arkansas, creating a bipartisan redistricting commission in New York, eliminating a judicial merit selection commission in Tennessee, strengthening the right to bear arms in Alabama and Missouri, guaranteeing a right to farm in Missouri, and barring state and local officials from enforcing unconstitutional federal directives in Arizona.
Implementation of the insurance-exchange and Medicaid-expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act offers an opportunity to analyze the sources and extent of state and federal government leverage in bargaining over the rollout of a major federal program.
...the flexibility of state constitutions affords ample opportunity for state constitutional amendment processes, alongside judicial processes, to serve as forums for deliberating about rights.
…the mandatory convention referendum device…is of interest because it currently offers perhaps the most viable avenue for undertaking a comprehensive reexamination of a state constitution…
States played a prominent role in policy-making in 2007–2008 in several respects. States were more successful in securing relief from federal directives regarding the National Guard, homeland security, education, and welfare than in any prior year in the Bush presidency.