July | August 2017







State Federalism Initiatives Gain Momentum

By Leslie Haymon, policy analyst, CSG-DC
Renewed interests in federalism and improving the state-federal relationship have spurred several exciting developments in Washington, D.C., and around the country.
At the CSG West conference in Tacoma, Washington, in August, a robust discussion of federalism occurred. Participants in the State and Federal Relations Committee session heard from a variety of speakers on the opportunities available for strengthening the relationship between the states and federal government.  
Many federal agencies engage with their state and local partners in ways that are not universally adaptable. The session sought to find processes and recommendations that would balance the needs of different organizations while also not unduly burdening agencies or state and local governments.
“State consultation means better interaction among all levels of government—federal, state and local. Better interaction through, for example, vastly improving the way everyone communicates, ensures better decision making about policies that affect nearly all our lives,” said Hawaii state Rep. Cindy Evans, who co-chairs the CSG West State and Federal Relations Committee along with Wyoming state Rep. Eric Barlow.
The session also generated a list of policy recommendations, including a minimum time period for pre-consultation with state governments on proposed rules of 120 days and a lowering of the cost threshold for consultation to $50 million. Panelists also recommended the creation of standardized contact lists and expanded communication options.
“There is an absolute necessity for good communications regarding state consultation so that state and federal governments can clearly identify what their roles and responsibilities are in providing the best support and services to our citizens,” Barlow said.
The Western Governors’ Association is leading a coalition—joined by CSG West, the National Governors Association, Conference of Western Attorneys General, National Association of Counties, and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region—focused on providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and mechanisms for improving the state consultation process and federalism more broadly. In August, members of the coalition met to share their thoughts on how to better attune this vital relationship to the needs of both the federal government and its state partners. Representatives of the coalition stated their belief that this period presents a golden opportunity for improving the relationship.
“Western Governors are committed to improving the state-federal relationship.  They are eager to work with federal agencies as authentic partners to design and implement policies affecting their constituents.
“WGA is honored to affiliate with such a distinguished and dynamic coalition of state and local associations to promote the vital role of our collective members in the formulation of federal policy. This bipartisan group, representing the various branches of state and local government, has undertaken a united effort to ensure that local knowledge and preference is brought to bear on federal-decision making. Our common vision is that of a federal partner who engages states and localities in ways that are substantive, meaningful and ongoing. I am confident that the work of this group will have important and enduring impacts on the federal policymaking enterprise,” said James Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association. 
The Speaker’s Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, a bipartisan group convened by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, continues its examination of the current condition of federalism and ways to improve the state-federalism relationship. The second hearing, titled “Federalizing” Federalism? A Primer on Federalism, State and Local Government and Interrelations with the Federal Government, will take an academic perspective on the essential elements of federalism. Featuring witnesses from Georgetown Law Center, Yale Law School and George Mason University, this hearing seeks to illuminate the ways federalism has developed historically.
U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia and a member of the Task Force may also reintroduce legislation that would re-establish the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations or ACIR. ACIR provided an essential conduit for communication and policymaking to the federal executive branch for state and local governments. The commission was established in 1959 and disbanded in 1996. This legislation would re-establish the body as the National Commission on Intergovernmental Relations and would stipulate that the membership draw from a diverse array of state, local and tribal officials.
Discussions about how to improve state-federal relations and enhance the consultation process will continue through the autumn. At the CSG 2017 National Conference in December, the CSG Intergovernmental Affairs committee will host a session titled Improving the State and Federal Connection. The session will provide attendees with a 360-degree look at how states and the federal government can work together.