Interstate Cooperation: Compacts and Administrative Agreements

By Joseph F. Zimmerman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6

FORMAL AND INFORMAL ADMINISTRATIVE AGREEMENTS

The framers of the U.S. Constitution fully recognized cooperative interstate relations were essential for the success of the new federal system. In consequence, they included provisions in the fundamental document to promote harmony between sister states—full faith and credit, privileges and immunities, and rendition, and authorization of interstate compacts. 1 The first three provisions are based upon the overarching principle of legal reciprocity, and compacts, except those on boundaries or to conduct studies, establish a uniform law within the covered geographical area.

The Constitution contains many silences, and one of the most important silences relates to ad hoc and permanent interstate joint and reciprocal administrative agreements to solve governmental problems. There was relatively little need for such agreements during the early decades of the federal system. The railroad initially, and the motor vehicle subsequently, increased greatly interstate commerce and personal travel, thereby necessitating interstate administrative cooperation on a wide variety of matters to smooth the functioning of the federal system. Today, the number of formal and informal administrative agreements is large, yet little scholarly attention has been devoted to them.

Democratic theory posits the importance of establishing governmental and public officer responsibility to facilitate the ability of voters to hold governments and civil servants accountable for their actions and inactions. The relative lack of public information on administrative agreements, particularly verbal ones, makes it difficult for citizens and elected representatives to exercise oversight over the implementation of these agreements, thereby raising questions whether such agreements are subject to abuse by state government administrators.

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