Clinton Edict on Federalism Stirs Up State, Local Leaders

Article excerpt

A Presidential order to alter fundamentally the relationship of the federal government and state and local governments is scheduled to go into effect next month. An Executive Order on Federalism, #13083, proposed by President Clinton, would rewrite the distribution and balance of power away from the direction established under the last three Presidencies. It would set the federal government and its many agencies that affect cities and towns on a very different policy course--revoking earlier commitments to oppose unfunded federal mandates and federal preemption, and replacing them with expanded guidelines and justifications for preempting historic and traditional municipal authority.

NLC President Brian O'Neill joined the nation's governors and leaders of other national organizations in requesting delay and suspension of the implementation of the proposed new Executive Order on Federalism:

"We urge this action to provide adequate time for meaningful consultations with our levels of government with regard to proposed changes that were made with no prior consultation, notice, or warning. We believe the changes and the manner in which they were made raise serious questions with regard to your administration's perceptions of the balances of power between the three levels of government. Before revoking your previous Executive Order, or its predecessor, we urge you to negotiate revisions in consultation with leaders of the organizations of state and local elected officials.

"We make this request because we believe the new changes give an entirely different and inappropriate thrust to federalism as guidance to executive branch officials.

"Our highest priority is to halt the new trend of major federal preemption of historic and traditional state and local roles and responsibilities. The proposed executive order revokes all references to this key issue. In contrast, the new order proposes a renewed preeminence of the federal government with an emphasis on mandating uniformity. It focuses on nine reasons for this reversal of more than two decades of federal policy and deference to state and local authority.

"We believe the new Executive Order calls into question fundamental principles of federalism. We are concerned that all references to the Tenth Amendment, identification of new costs or burdens, and reduction of mandates are revoked.

"Part of the greatness of federalism has been the flexibility of our great system to allow any city, county, or state to develop new ideas and approaches to confront problems affecting Americans--the laboratory of democracy and the will of the people at each level of government in America. Unlike previous federalism Executive Orders, the new proposal, signed by President Clinton while he was in Manchester, England, would revoke both former President Reagan's Executive Order on Federalism, as well as an earlier Order by President Clinton in 1993. (For a comparison of some of the key issues for municipal leaders, see accompanying chart. …