Report urges feds to respect local laws, regulations

A new report recommends that Congress and federal agencies respect the need for balance between nationwide uniformity and creative diversity.

Beyond Preemption: Intergovernmental Partnerships to Enhance the New Economy

A panel of experts from the National Academy of Public Administration issued a report July 5 that condemns a growing trend of pre-empting state and local authority. Federal pre-emption has blocked state and local efforts to tax Internet transactions and restrict the placement of wireless transmission towers through zoning regulations, for example. The report recommends that Congress and federal agencies respect the need for balance between nationwide uniformity and creative diversity.

The report, “Beyond Pre-emption: Intergovernmental Partnerships to Enhance the New Economy,” examines federal pre-emptions and makes recommendations. The National Governors Association requested the report.

Federal pre-emptions increased dramatically after 1965. According to the panel’s findings, Congress has passed 520 statutory preemptions since 1970. The scope of the pre-emptions has grown, too. They once mostly affected interstate commerce. Now they have an effect on health and safety, banking, finance, civil rights and natural resources.

In its recommendations, the NAPA panel called for:

  • Holding hearings at national, state and local levels to examine federal pre-emption and intergovernmental partnerships.
  • Conducting intergovernmental impact assessments before making decisions that affect state and local governments.
  • Passing an Intergovernmental Partnership Act to minimize factors that create a favorable environment for federal pre-emption.
  • Organizing national associations of state and local officials to create a federalism action plan.
  • Creating a new federalism research agenda on which the federal government can work with state and local governments.

The report provides examples of federal pre-emption that governors support and others that they oppose. For example, governors generally favor portable individual and family health insurance, and they approve of cross-checking truck driver’s licenses to prevent drivers with canceled licenses from getting new ones in other states.

But governors typically oppose federal restrictions on class-action lawsuits in state courts or curbs on their ability to tax satellite television and Internet transactions. Governors also do not favor giving the Federal Communications Commission authority to override state and local zoning restrictions on television antennas, wireless transmission towers and small satellite dishes.

The panel concluded that governments must develop intergovernmental partnerships so they can start delivering effective governmental services and stop debating legal issues.

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