Federalism

Coercive federalism continues, although “cooperative coercion” seems to characterize the current situation with President Barack Obama and Congress because of a significant increase in federal aid to state and local governments, improvements in intergovernmental communication, and movement away from total pre-emption of certain state powers. Nevertheless, federal officials continue to insist that state and local governments adhere to federal policy priorities.

State-local relations in 2010 are complex and continually changing. Major trends since 2007 include creation of state commissions to study the local government system and to make recommendations for its reorganization; state laws granting local governments more or less discretionary authority; state assumption of control of failing public schools and fiscally distressed cities; and numerous court decisions determining the respective powers of the state and its political subdivisions.

In the 1970s and 1980s a number of states created entities commonly known as Advisory Commissions on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIRs).  Although as many as half the states at one time or another supported ACIRs, today only about 10 continue to do so.  Relying on face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, e-mail correspondence, Web site analysis, and mailed surveys of directors and other staff members of both currently active as well as terminated ACIRs, this study reports on organization and structure, on staffing and finances, and on activities and performance characteristics of those state ACIRs that remain viable today.  The study attempts to identify those factors that seem most related to successful performance of these existing agencies as well as factors related to those terminated agencies, and, in conclusion, speculates on the continued role of ACIRs in the U.S. federal system.

Chapter 2 of the 2010 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments affirms, on behalf of the states, their sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

The current economic crisis and the new Democratic majority in the federal government will produce significant policy changes relevant to state-federal relations, but, overall, American federalism will continue its contemporary coercive course in an evolutionary manner because that course has involved expansions of federal power that were augmented by crises in the past and by change-minded presidents supported by partisan majorities in Congress.

Congress first enacted statutes preempting regulatory powers of states and their political subdivisions in 1790, but the impact of subsequent preemption acts with a few exceptions was relatively minor until 1965 when a sharp increase in such statutes occurred and many statutes involved fields traditionally regulated by the states. Most preemption statutes involve civil rights, commerce, communications, environmental protection, finance, health, telecommunications and transportation. This article focuses principally upon the preemption bills signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The 2008 elections will not alter the coercive course of American federalism. Given that little will be accomplished in Washington, D.C., before 2009, the new president and new congressional majority will likely address such long-simmering issues as education, entitlements, health insurance, immigration and infrastructure. However, centralizing trends—such as conditions of aid, mandates and preemptions—will endure because they have enjoyed bipartisan support since the late 1960s. Intergovernmental administrative relations will be mostly cooperative, and state policy activism will remain vigorous, but the Supreme Court will not resuscitate federalism.

This article reviews interstate relations developments since 2005 pertaining to uniform state laws, interstate compacts, interstate administrative agreements, state attorneys general joint suits, same-sex marriages, civil unions and pertinent court decisions.

BE IT THREFORE RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments supports the principles espoused in the Federal Consent Decree Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Congress should enact the Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act.
 

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