Unformatted text preview: 5. MECHANISMS FOR RESOLVING INTERGOVERNMENTAL DISPUTES Prior to 1913’s 17th Amendment to the Constitution, state governments had a somewhat direct linkage to national
government policies as US Senators were elected by their respective state legislatures. Later the link between state and
Congressional representatives was further weakened by the changes that occurred in electioneering in the United States
– primarily the use of the media, with a resultant dramatic increase in cost of campaigns. Over the past thirty years this
has given the special interest groups that are able to raise campaign funds more power than that derived from
endorsements by state and local officials.
The primary interaction between state and local officials and the Congress in more recent times has been by means of
the public interest groups that represent them – especially the National Governors Association, and the National League
of Cities and US Conference of Mayors. The National Governors Association was very involved in the formulation of
welfare reform, for example. Most states, and even some local governments, have full-time lobbyists in Washington.
It is also important to note that the analytical ability of the federal government with respect to intergovernmental relations
has been greatly diminished. In 1987, both the US House and Senate subcommittees that focused on intergovernmental
relations were consolidated into larger committees, with a resultant loss of focus. Intergovernmental units in both the
federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress’s General Accounting Office were similarly
decommissioned. The final blow came with the de-funding of the US Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental
Relations, a “permanent” federal commission in existence since 1959. The Commissioners, appointed by the President,
included elected and administrative officials from the federal, state, and local levels of government. The ACIR
represented the only institution in the US where officials representing these varied perspectives would meet on a regular
basis, and its staff consistently produced significant reports on federal-state-local issues.
What is left is the US Supreme Court as arbiter of disputes. Up until the mid-1980s the Court was seen as one of the
facilitators of centralization of power in Washington, with its decision in the 1976 case of National League of Cities v.
Usery representative. It was in that case that the Court affirmed the validity of all grant conditions as a “voluntary”
agreement between the national government and states. By the mid-1980s the Court tried to pull back from serving as
“intergovernmental umpire,” but as the 1990s arrived it increasingly ruled in favor of states, in part reflecting the
conservative ideology of those appointed under Reagan and Bush. 6. CONCLUSION The story of decentralization in the United States is long and complex. But the emphasis on decentralization, while
perhaps slightly increased, is certainl...
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