Content Type

First referenced in Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, interstate compacts are the most formal mechanism available to policymakers seeking state-driven solutions to a wide range of policy challenges. Of all the tools available to state policymakers trying to work cooperatively across borders, interstate compacts are the most formal and perhaps the least understood.1 Compacts hold a unique place in American history for several different reasons. First, while the use of interstate compacts dates back to the founding of the country, the frequency with which they are used has expanded considerably over the last half century. Second, compacts provide state policymakers with a sustainable tool capable of promoting interstate cooperation without federal intervention. Third, interstate compacts can be used to address a wide range of policy challenges, ranging from insurance reform to environmental regulation and virtually everything in between. 

Congress slowly exercised its power of pre-emption to remove regulatory powers from state and local governments commencing from 1790 through the mid-1960s, when the pace accelerated. A significant number of acts contain mandates requiring state and/or local governments to initiate a compliance action(s) or impose prohibitions. No pre-emption mandate relief act has been enacted since 1996. This article focuses on the pre-emption acts signed by President Barack Obama since January 2009.

In the relatively few state legislative and gubernatorial elections in 2011, Republicans continued their winning streak in Southern states, coming closer to complete control of states in the region by taking over the Mississippi House for the first time since Reconstruction and by taking back functional control of the Virginia Senate. The four odd-year election states of Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia staged regular elections for 578 legislative seats in 2011. In the end, Republicans picked up 25 seats in the off-year elections, adding to their dramatic gains from the year before and putting the party in its strongest position in state legislatures since 1928.