President Bush Touts Era of `New Federalism'

Article excerpt

Speaking before the National Governors' Association in Washington on February 26, President George W. Bush proposed plans for a "new federalism to hand power back to the states while easing the burdens of federal rules and regulations."

President Bush issued a White House memorandum to his senior staff that outlined the creation of an Interagency Working Group on Federalism. President Bush stressed that his administration would give states "greater flexibility in spending federal money and `streamline rigid rules and regulations' imposed by Washington." The working group would be chaired by the Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy, and would include members of the Cabinet, and the heads or designees from the various agencies, including the newly created Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.

The move by President Bush was reminiscent of former President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12612, signed on October 26, 1987, which had the stated purpose of "restor[ing] division of governmental responsibilities between federal and state governments that was intended by Framers of Constitution." The Reagan Order was championed by local officials because federal preemption was limited only to problems that were "national in scope and not common to states."

Additionally, the order required states and local officials be "consulted by executive departments and agencies in possible cases of preemption or conflict between federal and state law." The Reagan Order differed from the President Clinton's Executive Order on federalism that supported preemption of state and local law "when the intent of the law is clear and manifest, or the exercise of state or municipal authority directly conflicts with the exercise of federal authority."

The Interagency Working Group on Federalism is expected to "draft an executive order requiring federal agencies `to respect the rights of our states and territories. …