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Illinois Municipal Review
The Magazine of the Municipalities
May 1996
Offical Publication of the Illinois Municipal League
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 own affairs.

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 budget priorities."

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

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