Best Practices for Compact Development
Interstate compacts are contracts between states. Applying best practices - developed over more than two centuries of the history of compact use - helps ensure that the complex process of orchestrating a contract between multiple state governments is successful.
- These are agreements between two or more states that establish or alter the boundaries of a state.
- Border compacts require approval of Congress.
- Key examples of border compacts include the Virginia-Tennessee Boundary Agreement of 1803, Arizona-California Boundary Compact of 1963, the Missouri-Nebraska Compact of 1990, and the Virginia-West Virginia Boundary Compact of 1998.
- These are agreements between two or more states that create study commissions, which examine a problem and report their findings to their respective states.
- These compacts do not result in changes to a state’s boundaries or create ongoing administrative agencies with regulatory authority.
These compacts are a development of the 20th century that cover a wide range of policy topics, including:
- Regional planning and development
- Crime control
- Flood control
- Water resource management
- Mental health
- Juvenile delinquency
- Child support
- Regulatory compacts create ongoing administrative agencies that are granted rulemaking and regulatory authority by the compact.
- Many regulatory compacts require congressional consent.
Advisory Group: Composed of state officials and other critical stakeholders, an advisory group examines the problem, suggests possible solutions and makes recommendations as to the structure of the interstate compact. Typically, an advisory group is comprised of approximately 20 individuals, each representative of various groups and states. This step also represents a crucial foundation and opportunity to ensure a credible, inclusive process. An advisory group usually meets two or three times over a period of several months, with its work culminating in a set of recommendations as to what the final compact product should look like.
Drafting Team: While the advisory group is tasked with thinking about the issue from a macro level, a drafting team pulls the thoughts, ideas and suggestions of the advisory group into a draft compact. The drafting team, comprised of five to eight compact and issue experts, crafts language based on the recommendations of the advisory group, as well as their own thoughts and expertise. The drafting team opens the document for comments from a wide swath of stakeholders and the public. Following these comment periods, the drafting team revises the compact as needed and sends it back to the advisory group for final review to ensure it meets the original spirit of the group’s recommendations. A drafting team meets three to four times over a period of 10 to 14 months, with significant staff work and support between sessions.
Education: Once completed, the interstate compact is available to states for legislative approval. During this phase of the initiative, state-by-state technical assistance and on-site education are keys to rapid success. Previous interstate compact efforts have convened end-of-the-year legislative briefings for state officials to educate them on the solutions provided by the compact. Education occurs before and during state legislative sessions.
Enactment: A majority of interstate compacts do not become active right away. Rather, they typically activate when a predetermined number of states join the compact. For instance, the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, known as the Adult Compact, required 35 state enactments before it could become active. This number was chosen for two reasons. A membership of 35 states ensures that a majority of states are in favor of the agreement and that a new compact would not create two conflicting systems. Moreover, a sense of urgency for states was created because the first 35 jurisdictions to join would meet soon thereafter and fashion the operating rules of the compact. Most interstate compacts take up to seven years to reach critical mass. Recent efforts managed by CSG, including the Adult Compact and the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, reached 35 states in just 30 months, about two and a half legislative sessions.
- Transition: Following enactment by the required minimum number of states, the new compact becomes operational. Depending on the administrative structure, the compact goes through standard startup activities such as state notification, planning for the first commission or state-to-state meetings, and if authorized by the compact, hiring of staff to oversee the agreement and its requirements. A critical component of the transition is the development of rules, regulations, forms, standards, etc., by which the compact operates. Typically, transition activities run between 12 and 18 months before the compact body is independently running.