ACIR Releases Preliminary Report
On Existing Federal Mandates
By BILL DAVIS, Executive Director, Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
A preliminary report by the Advisory Commission
on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) recommends
repeal of provisions in seven federal laws that extend
coverage to stales and local governments because there
is insufficient national interest to justify their intrusion
on the ability of those governments to control their
On seven other federal laws examined, the
Commission concluded that there is sufficient national interest at stake to justify their applicability to states
and local governments, and thus the laws should be retained. However, the Commission has recommended
modifications to these laws to accommodate to budgetary and administrative constraints at stale and local
governments or levels and to provide those governments greater flexibility in complying with federal requirements.
The seven federal laws whose coverage of states
and local governments is targeted for repeal include
the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical
Leave Act and the Occupational Safety and Health
Act. (See box for complete list.)
Among the laws the Commission is recommending be revised are The Clean Water Act, the Americans
With Disabilities Act, The Safe Drinking Water Act,
the Clean Air Act and the Davis Bacon Act.
The Commission was directed by the Unfunded
Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-4) to investigate
and review the role of federal mandates in intergovernmental relations and to make recommendations to
the President and Congress changes in federal policies
to improve intergovernmental relations while maintaining a commitment to national interests.
An independent, bipartisan intergovernmental
agency established by federal law in 1959, ACIR has 26
members including three elected county officials, four
mayors, four governors, and three state legislators as
well as members of the Senate, The House and the federal Executive Branch.
The 14 federal mandates studied in this report
were selected from a list of more than 200 separate
mandates, involving 170 federal laws, identified by
states and local governments during the early stages of
the Commission's work. In a report issued last year by
the Commission, 3,500 separate federal court decisions involving more than 100 federal laws, were identified which required actions by stale and local governments which they would not otherwise have taken.
These numbers provide a dramatic picture of the cumulative effects of federal laws on states and local governments.
"In recent years," the report concludes, "the
Washington tendency has been to treat as a national issue any problem that is emotional, hot and highly visible. Often this has meant passing a federal law that imposes costs and requirements on state and local governments without their consent and without regard for
their ability to comply. The challenge facing the federal government is to exercise power to resolve national
needs while, at the same time, honoring state and local
rights to govern their own affairs and set their own
In reaching its conclusions, the Commission considered several key questions:
• Does the national purpose justify federal intrusion in state and local affairs?
• Are the costs of implementing the mandate appropriately shared among governments?
• Is maximum flexibility given to state and local
governments in implementing the mandate?
• Are their changes that can be made in the mandate to relieve intergovernmental tensions while maintaining a commitment to national goals?
"The mandate issues examined in the report," says
the Commission, "arose because American federalism
no longer has clearly defined responsibilities for federal, state and local governments. One result of this
lack of defined roles has been increased federal involvement in activities historically considered to be
state and local affairs."
While only 14 federal mandates were selected for
analysis in this report, the Commission concluded that
"many more of the 200 mandates identified need to be
evaluated. ACIR urges that a review of additional mandates be authorized as soon as possible."
Additional information on the Commission's preliminary report can be obtained from ACIR, 800 K
Street, NW, Suite 450 South, Washington DC 20575.
Phone (202) 653-5540 or FAX (202) 653-5429. •
The Commission finds that the following mandates, as they apply to state and local governments, do not have a sufficient national interest to
justify intruding on state and local government
abilities to control their own affairs. While the
Commission does not take issue with the goals of
these mandates, it believes that achieving those
goals can be left to elected state and local officials.
ACIR recommends repealing the provisions
in these laws that extend coverage to state
and local governments.
• Fair Labor Standards Act
• Family and Medical Leave Act
• Occupational Safety and Health Act
• Drug and Alcohol Testing of Commercial Drivers
• Metric Conversion for Plans and Specifications
• Medicaid; Boren Amendment
• Required Use of Recycled Crumb Rubber
May 1996 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 27