NLC Policy Unit Meets with Legislators

Article excerpt

Members of an NLC policy steering committee met in Austin, Tex., May 2-4 with state legislators m around the country to share information and explore some common needs and concerns involving federal programs that may be transformed into state and local responsibilities.

The meeting of NLC's Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) Steering Committee was held in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual Assembly on State Issues.

"Coming together like this is the right thing to do," said George D. Blackwood Jr., mayor pro term of City., Mo., and chairman of the FAIR Committee.

"It is clear that there are going to be some massive changes, and it is also clear that it's important to do this right for the citizens of the United States," Blackwood said at a news conference in the Texas State Capitol following a joint session with NCSL's Fiscal, Oversight and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. "We need a dialog that breaks the 'us-them' mentality, and to start working to build state-local and regional cooperation. We want to be prepared."

Both organizations have a profound interest in the implications for states and cities as the realignment of governmental responsibilities and decision making away from Washington takes place through what has become known as devolution.

The devolution process is intended to encourage flexibility and innovation in Am and local approaches in areas such as welfare and social services, job tram, health services, education, public safety, housing assistance and community development, while also serving as a vehicle to reduce federal funding as well as federal involvement in those activities.

Council member Maxine Childress Brown of Rochester, N.Y., a vice chair of the FAIR committee, joined Blackwood in a panel discussion with NCSL leaders on "State-Local OPPORtunities and Concerns Stemming from Devolution."

Asked to assess the effects of the impending changes, Brown said many of the outcomes could depend upon the readiness to deal with them. "What's there is the incentive to cooperate, to identify needs and develop a way to respond to cuts," she said.

Council member Sue Donaldson of Seattle, a vice chair of the FAIR Committee, used the imagery of an earthquake, which occured in her city while she was at the meeting, to give a vivid perspective to the potential policy implications of devolution for state and local government. …