Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Delicate Balance - Federal Preemption and Regulation of State and Local Governments

Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Delicate Balance - Federal Preemption and Regulation of State and Local Governments

Article excerpt

Throughout the world, nations are turning to the United States as a model for their emerging local democracies. As the former central powers of Europe, Africa, South America and Asia give up control of local governments, every aspect of these intergovernmental systems is subject to review and reform. Nations undergoing change are attempting to define the appropriate balance of power among the levels of government as they sort out the division of responsibilities and the wherewithal to pay for the costs of governing.

How ironic it is that at the same time others are looking to the American federal system for guidance, many scholars and policy makers in the United States are questioning recent trends in the relationships among the various levels of governments and calling for change. With alarming frequency the federal government is preempting state and local powers, mandating certain programs for states and localities to carry out and finance, and regulating state and local activities. In the eyes of many, the American federal system is out of balance.

The concern about loss of state and local government autonomy has prompted several actions at the federal level.

* Seventeen members of the House of

Representatives introduced H.R. 3344 in

September 1991 to establish a National

Commission on Intergovernmental Mandate

Reform that would document

federal mandates, estimate their costs,

establish criteria for totally or partially

eliminating mandates or reforming them

to relieve burdens on state and local

governments and make recommendations

to the Congress and the President.

* Representative Doug Barnard (D-GA)

has introduced a bill (H.R. 1547) that is

designed to ensure that federal legislation

imposing costs on state and local

governments is not passed without

analysis and debate of its consequences

and to provide for the reimbursement of

certain costs. Another Barnard bill (H.R.

1546) would permit a House member to

raise a point of order against most bills

that would impose unreimbursed costs.

* In November, Senators Carl Levin

(D-MI) and Dave Durenberger (R-MN)

introduced S. 2080, a bill that would

require any federal statute to state

explicitly Congress' intent to preempt

state and local government powers

before the courts and federal agencies

could invalidate or prohibit any state or

local government law, ordinance or

regulation. The House companion, H.R.

4613, has been introduced by Representative

Craig Thomas (R-WY).

* President Bush, in his 1992 State of the

Union address, ordered a 90-day moratorium

on new regulations and review of

existing rules. He also said,

We must put an end to unfinanced

federal government mandates. These

are the requirements Congress puts

on our cities, counties and states--without

supplying the money. And if

Congress passed a mandate, it

should be forced to pay for it, and

to balance the cost with savings elsewhere.

After all, a mandate just

increases someone else's burden--and

that means higher taxes at the

state and local level.

* More recently, Senator Connie Mack

(R-FL) has introduced mandate relief

legislation. S.2349 would require the

federal government to pay for certain

costs of mandates and S. 2348 would

permit a senator to raise a procedural

point of order and stop any legislation

on unfunded mandates from coing to the

floor for a vote. …

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