"State Constitutional Politics: Governing By Amendment in the American States"
Monday, September 17
Monroe Hall 130
Since the US Constitution came into force in 1789, it has been amended just twenty-seven times, with ten of those amendments coming in the first two years following ratification. By contrast, state constitutions have been completely rewritten on a regular basis, and the current documents have been amended on average 150 times. John Dinan looks at the various occasions in American history when state constitutional amendments have served as instruments of governance. Among other things, amendments have constrained state officials in the way they levy taxes and spend money; enacted policies unattainable through legislation on issues ranging from minimum wage to the regulation of marijuana; and updated understandings of rights, including religious liberty, equal protection, and the right to bear arms. Dinan also assesses the consequences of undertaking changes in governance through amendments rather than legislation or litigation. For various reasons, including the greater stability and legitimacy of changes achieved through the amendment process, he argues that it might be a more desirable way of achieving change.
Bio: John Dinan’s research focuses on state constitutionalism, federalism, and American political development. He is the author of several books, including State Constitutional Politics: Governing by Amendment in the American States and The American State Constitutional Tradition, and he writes an annual entry on state constitutional developments for The Book of the States. He is the editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism and is a past chair of the Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations Section of the American Political Science Association. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia.