Interstate Compacts and the Federal Government
By Crady deGolian, Director of CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts
The popular perception that interstate compacts provide a tool for states to work cooperatively to avoid a federally mandated solution is true, but the long held opinion oversimplifies the use of compacts.
Compacts also have frequently served as a vehicle to allow state policymakers and federal officials to work cooperatively to solve cross border policy challenges.
“I think a disservice is done to the compact instrument with the suggestion that compacts are used solely as a means for states to work cooperatively to avoid a federally imposed solution,” said Rick Masters, who serves as special counsel to CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts.
Federal participation in interstate compacts is not uncommon. In fact, federal participation often strengthens a compact.
“There are examples throughout history of compacts being used (to avoid federal intervention), but there are far more examples of state policymakers and the federal government working jointly to develop effective interstate compacts that span many diverse policy fields,” Masters said.
Federal participation in interstate compacts can take many forms. In some instances, federal officials actively participate on compact commissions. In others, Congress legislatively encourages states to enter into compacts, while in some cases, Congress blesses particular compacts through congressional consent.
“Whether through formalized congressional consent or simply seeking federal agency participation as an ex-officio member of a compact commission, the way in which federal participation is achieved is oftentimes not as important as simply providing an avenue for federal participation,” Masters said. “While it is not always necessary, federal participation frequently legitimizes the compact instrument both from a legal perspective and in symbolic ways.”
Masters will discuss the role of the federal government in interstate compacts April 30 during the second in a series of webinars designed to educate policymakers about the history and use of interstate compacts.
Masters will discuss why compacts were intentionally included in the U.S. Constitution, the importance of congressional consent, and some of the positives and negatives to federal participation in interstate compacts. Specific compacts that have benefited from federal participation also will be highlighted.
The initial webinar focused on the background, history and modern use of interstate compacts. Additional webinars will focus on topics such as rulemaking authority, compact commission structures and some of the key benefits of interstate compacts.
CSG has an extensive history helping states foster and develop new interstate compacts. CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts, the only organization of its kind, combines policy research with best practices and functions as a membership association, serving the unique needs of compact administrators, compact commissions and the state agencies in which interstate compacts are located.
The center promotes the use of interstate compacts as an ideal tool to meet the demand for cooperative state action, to develop and enforce stringent standards, and to provide an adaptive structure for states that can evolve to meet new and changing demands over time.
The mission of the National Center for Interstate Compacts is to serve as an information clearinghouse, to provide training and technical assistance and to serve as a primary facilitator in assisting states in the review, revision and creation of new interstate compacts as solutions to multi-state problems or alternatives to federal pre-emption.